5 things to know about new Bruins center Elias Lindholm

5 things to know about new Bruins center Elias Lindholm
5 things to know about new Bruins center Elias Lindholm

Bruins

“I think I can bring a little bit of what [Bergeron] did.”

Elias Lindholm should lock down Boston’s first-line center spot moving forward. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

The writing has been on the wall for months that the Bruins were going to be fishing for a top-six center this summer.

Sure enough, Boston’s top splash of the offseason came shortly after NHL free agency officially began on Monday, with the Bruins signing 29-year-old center Elias Lindholm to a seven-year contract with an annual cap hit of $7.75 million.

Lindholm will add some two-way poise to Boston’s top-six unit, although there are some questions regarding his ceiling as a true top-line pivot — especially given that $7.75 million annual price tag.

Here’s five things to know about Boston’s new center:

He’s regarded as one of the top two-way forwards in the league

Lindholm may not have the scoring touch of Steven Stamkos or perhaps the motor of Chandler Stephenson. But the 29-year-old forward does check off plenty of boxes for a Bruins team that places plenty of defensive responsibility on the shoulders of its pivots.

Even with a dip in baseline production last season, Lindholm has long held court as one of the more consistent 200-foot players in the NHL.

In his 11 seasons in the NHL, the former fifth overall pick of the 2013 NHL Draft has surpassed the 50-point threshold four times — headlined by a breakout 2021-22 campaign in Calgary where he lit the lamp 42 times and added 40 assists over 82 games.

That 80-point campaign might have been an outlier, as he generated those numbers on a line with two elite playmakers in Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. Still, Lindholm should be penciled in for 45-60 points in Boston, especially if he skates alongside David Pastrnak in a top-line role.

Beyond his baseline production, Lindholm’s defensive game, positioning, and hockey IQ allow him to impact the game every time he hops over the boards.

He finished second in the voting for the 2021-22 Selke Trophy (behind Patrice Bergeron) for the league’s top defensive forward, while also posting strong numbers on faceoffs throughout his career (53.4 percent).

“I kind of try to look at Bergeron as much as possible,” Lindholm said of his fit with Boston. “I don’t want to compare myself or anything like that. But I think I can bring a little bit of what he did.”

Given Boston’s inconsistent showing at the dot last postseason, Lindholm should shore up that area of the game, while his ability to shut down opposing skaters will come in handy against what will be another stacked field in the Eastern Conference next season.

Lindholm is coming off a down season

Even with his sizable pay raise this offseason, Lindholm’s stock did take a hit in 2023-24 with both the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks. After averaging 32 goals and 73 points over his final two full seasons in Calgary (2021-23), Lindholm was limited to just 44 points over (15 goals, 29 assists) over 75 games with both the Flames and Canucks this winter.

Some of that dip might have been a byproduct of being a square peg in a round hole in Vancouver, with the Canucks both shifting him over to wing and later slotting him down to 3C with both Elias Pettersson and J.T. Miller already on the depth chart.

But Lindholm elevated his game during the playoffs for Vancouver, recording 10 points over their 13 postseason matchups while still finishing the 2023-24 campaign with a career-best 56.4 faceoff percentage.

Even if Lindholm may not be a 40-goal regular, a full season next to Pastrnak should see Lindholm consistently put up 60 points or more, while continuing to bolster the team’s stingy defensive structure.

“Going into season like that, you’re kind of uncertain with what’s going to happen,” Lindholm said of his struggles last season. “And then you kind of know, after a little bit that you’re gonna get traded — but you don’t know when or where and so on.

“So it definitely affected me more than I was hoping. But I’m glad now that time is over. And now I know for a long time where I’m going to be and so on.”

They might share the same last name, but Elias Lindholm is not related to current Bruins blueliner Hampus Lindholm. However, Boston’s new pivot did receive a text from Hampus encouraging him to join Boston in free agency.

Elias Lindholm does have some familial ties to the NHL. His father, Mikael, played 18 games for the Los Angeles Kings in 1989-90, while Toronto Maple Leafs winger Calle Jarnkrok is Elias’s cousin.

Lindholm’s presence alone gives Boston options up front

Beyond his two-way skillset and potential bounce-back scoring production, Lindholm’s arrival should also create a positive domino effect for the rest of Boston’s forward corps.

Boston’s de-facto center grouping of Charlie Coyle, Pavel Zacha, Morgan Geekie, and Matthew Poitras all exceeded expectations last season — establishing themselves as key cogs capable of moving the needle and impacting the game for Boston.

But while all four of those skaters should bring value to Boston in 2024-25, it became clear at the end of last season that at least a few of those pivots were playing in roles elevated beyond their capabilities.

While Poitras was sidelined for the final four months of the season due to shoulder surgery, both Coyle and Zacha finished with just two tallies over Boston’s 13 playoff games — prompting Jim Montgomery to slot up Geekie as a top-line player against the Panthers.

With Lindholm presumably locking down the first-line center position, Boston has the means to either slot Zacha to the wing (where he’s played his best hockey with the Bruins), or even push Coyle down to the third line where he’d be able to exploit matchups and drive play against lesser competition.

The Bruins have coveted Lindholm for a long time

Lindholm hitting the open market finally allowed Boston to land the veteran center on a hefty deal, but this was far from the first time that Don Sweeney and his staff have been linked to the defensive-minded pivot.

Boston was tied to Lindholm in trade rumors earlier this season when Calgary was fielding offers for him — given the Bruins’ evident need for reinforcements up front.

But even after Vancouver acquired him on Jan. 31, it was reported that Boston circled back and was interested in plucking Lindholm from the Canucks before the trade deadline in March. It would have been a roller-coaster ride on the transaction wire for Lindholm, with the Canucks reportedly looking to move him in order to try to land Jake Guentzel in a blockbuster deal with the Penguins.

Guentzel ultimately was dealt to the Hurricanes and Lindholm stood pat in Vancouver for the rest of the season, but Boston did eventually get its man just minutes into the start of free agency on Monday.

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