Nick Goss

How Elias Lindholm signing bolsters Bruins lineup in many ways

The Bruins badly needed a top-six center and Lindholm fits that description.

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The Boston Bruins got better, deeper and harder to play against on Day 1 of NHL free agency by signing top-six center Elias Lindholm.

The two sides reportedly have agreed to a seven-year contract worth $54.25 million, including a $7.75 million salary cap hit.

"As soon as Boston came into the picture, it was an easy decision for me," Lindholm told reporters on a Zoom call Monday afternoon. "Joining this organization, an Original Six team with so much history and so many good players on the team. Looking at their playoff series versus Florida, they're pretty much right there. So it was exciting to join this organization."

The Bruins badly needed to bring in a top-six center during the offseason, and Lindholm fits that description. He will make a positive impact in all three zones, at even strength, on the power play and the penalty kill.

Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha both set career highs in scoring last season, but in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs they were largely ineffective offensively. Coyle scored one goal in the playoffs. Zacha has one goal in 25 career postseason games. The Florida Panthers -- and specifically Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett -- dominated the Bruins at the center position in Round 2. Lindholm's arrival will help prevent a similar scenario from happening in next year's playoffs.

One of the knocks on Lindholm is he doesn't produce at a super high rate offensively. He tallied just 44 points (15 goals, 29 assists) in 75 games between the Flames and Canucks last season, although he was very good (10 points in 13 games) during Vancouver's playoff run.

It's important to remember that Lindholm entered the 2023-24 campaign with a lot of uncertainty over his future. It was a difficult situation as trade rumors swirled almost daily until he was finally dealt to the Canucks in late January. That kind of uncertainty has the potential to negatively impact on-ice performance.

"It definitely did. Going into a season like that, uncertain what will happen. You kind of know after a little bit that you're going to get traded, but you don't know when or where," Lindholm said. "It definitely affected me more than I was hoping. I'm glad now that that time is over and now I know for a long time where I'm going to be. It's exciting."

Now that he's found a long-term home, Lindholm should be able to get back to the form he showed throughout his Flames tenure. There's no reason why he can't score 20-plus goals and provide 40-50 assists on a consistent basis in Boston.

The best season of his career came in 2021-22 when he scored 42 goals with 40 assists for the Calgary Flames. One of his linemates that season was Matthew Tkachuk. Lindholm playing alongside another elite goal scorer in David Pastrnak has the potential to produce fantastic results. One possible outcome of that partnership could be Lindholm's goal scoring increasing significantly next season. Lindholm is very good away from the puck, and Pastrnak's underrated playmaking ability should create plenty of Grade A scoring chances for the Swedish forward.

A line of Brad Marchand, Lindholm and Pastrnak has the potential to be dominant all over the ice.

Perhaps the biggest reason why Lindholm should be an excellent fit in Boston is his strong two-way skill set.

He's the prototypical all-situations player. He is a very good defensive forward-- finishing second in Selke Trophy voting to Patrice Bergeron two years ago. Lindholm is capable of playing against the opponents' top forwards and winning that matchup consistently. He also is likely to see a heavy workload on both special teams units. The Flames had the fifth-best penalty kill in the league during Lindholm's five-plus seasons in Calgary.

The veteran forward also is one of the best faceoff winners in the league. Lindholm won 56.4 percent of his faceoffs last season, which ranked ninth in the league among players who took 1,000-plus draws. He also won around 56 percent of his defensive-zone faceoffs with the Canucks.

The Bruins were No. 2 in faceoff win percentage in 2022-23, but then Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retired last summer and Boston dropped to 21st in faceoff win percentage this past season. The Bruins regressed further in the 2024 playoffs, ranking 14th out of the 16 teams in faceoff win percentage. Lindholm gives the Bruins a much-needed faceoff ace.

Here's a look at Lindholm's faceoff win percentages over the last eight seasons.

  • 2016-17: 55.6 percent
  • 2017-18: 54.5 percent
  • 2018-19: 54.3 percent
  • 2019-20: 49.3 percent
  • 2020-21: 51.4 percent
  • 2021-22: 52.9 percent
  • 2022-23: 55.7 percent
  • 2023-24: 56.7 percent

The addition of Lindholm also gives the Bruins tremendous depth at center.

They now have Lindholm, Charlie Coyle, Pavel Zacha, Matthew Poitras, Mark Kastelic, John Beecher, Trent Frederic and Morgan Geekie down the middle. Only four can actually play center, so many of these players will ultimately play on the wing, but to have this kind of talent and depth at one of the most important positions is pretty impressive and gives head coach Jim Montgomery a lot of options and flexibility with his lines.

Lindholm isn't an elite No. 1 center. He won't compete for the Art Ross Trophy. He's not going to stuff the highlight reel with tons of flashy plays. But his two-way skill and durability will make the Bruins better, deeper and harder to play against next season.

This was a move the Bruins had to make, and to get him signed to a salary cap hit under $8 million makes it an even better outcome for the Original Six franchise.

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