There stands to be a lot of change in Carolina over the next few seasons, but Elias Lindholm will be along for the ride thanks to a new contract extension.
The 20-year-old winger signed a two-year, $5.4 million extension Thursday that should keep him with the franchise until at least the 2017-18 season. The extension comes in the off-season following a stellar sophomore campaign in which Lindholm notched 17 goals and 39 points while playing second line minutes on a Carolina team that needed the glimmer of hope Lindholm offered.
“Elias played well last season, nearly doubling his offensive numbers from his rookie year,” Hurricanes GM Ron Francis told the team’s website. “We expect he will be a very important part of the Hurricanes as he continues to develop as a professional.”
Only two years into his career, Lindholm already projects to be a first-line winger for the Hurricanes. Carolina doesn’t exactly boast an all-star lineup, but getting top-line duty after two seasons in the league is no joke for Lindholm. If his growth continues as the Hurricanes project, he could effectively be part of the youth movement that allows Carolina to say goodbye to veteran presences like center Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward.
Already, the Hurricanes are the eighth youngest team in the league, according to NHLNumbers.com. With a core group that includes 18-year-old Noah Hanifin, 22-year-old Victor Rask, 22-year-old Ryan Murphy, 23-year-old Jeff Skinner and 23-year-old Justin Faulk, it’s no secret that the changes in Carolina aren’t going to be ones to make the team older. If anything, they’re going to continue to get younger and faster.
Locking up Lindholm makes the statement that Carolina is dedicated to growing its young players and watching their development closely. When it comes to Lindholm, especially, there’s the opportunity to further develop his already strong two-way game and make him the type of two-way winger that many teams covet come the post-season. And, hey, with more than $12 million in cap space this season and close to $24 million coming off the books in free agency next off-season, it doesn’t hurt to take a short-term shot on a player like Lindholm who can still have a breakout offensive season, too.
Carolina hasn’t exactly stocked the cupboards full of Grade ‘A’ prospects like other teams — scouts ranked the Hurricanes’ prospect group as 22nd best in the league in THN’s 2015 Future Watch edition — but they already have that youthful core group competing full-time in the NHL. Defenseman Haydn Fleury, 18, is yet to come up to the NHL and the Hurricanes have hopes for winger Brock McGinn and NCAA blueliner Brett Pesce to get a taste of NHL action in 2015-16. With those three in the lineup, nearly half of the Hurricanes roster would have yet to celebrate their 25th birthday.
So while Lindholm’s signing means the Hurricanes have confidence in the young winger, it also points to the continued change of direction the roster is undertaking. The youth movement is on in Carolina, and with the talent level of their young guns, it might not be long before the team is back knocking on the post-season’s door.