Ducks fans can finally rest assured, for the wait is finally over. After a lengthy contract stalemate that went longer than anyone would've wanted, the Ducks announced today the signing of defenseman Hampus Lindholm to a six-year contract through the 2021-22 season.
Though he's missed the opening month of the season (in addition to training camp and preseason), it's all water under the bridge at this point. Now it's simply a matter of him obtaining a P-1 Visa before flying to the United States from his native Sweden.
Anaheim's salary cap conundrum has been well-documented, but the 22-year-old made it clear that keeping the team intact was one of the reasons why he signed the deal that he - and his agent Claude Lemieux - ultimately agreed upon.
"Through the whole process, this was the only time to get me signed and keep some players," Lindholm said today. "It was good this way because I can play and they don't have to move anyone. We have a strong back-end with the core guys back from last year. It's going to be an exciting year."
While he let Lemieux handle most of the negotiating, Lindholm said he wanted to stay informed and keep an open dialogue with the Ducks throughout the entire process. "I knew what was going on," he said. "I was in the process and talking. He's my agent, so he's the one representing me. I have to trust him because he's doing what's best for me. During the whole process, I wanted to have a say the whole time. It's good we finally got it done."
And based on his comments, Lindholm says a bridge deal was never really up for discussion. The Ducks wanted term, and his six-year contract buys two years of unrestricted free agency.
"That was more Anaheim's side that they wanted to sign me long-term," Lindholm said. "I had no problem with that as long as we came up with something both sides would be happy about. That was a good thing."
Lindholm, of course, couldn't hold back his excitement as he prepares to embark on his fourth season with the Ducks. "I'm really happy to be back in Anaheim," he said. "That's where I've been all my career. I'm excited. I was hoping to get this done in the summer, but that's how it is. I can't do too much about that. You just have to try to get to the point where you agree. I'm really happy and they're really happy."
His signing comes on the heels of fellow (former) restricted free agent and fellow countryman Rickard Rakell signing a six-year contract of his own on October 14. Rakell skated with the team yesterday for the first time since inking his contract, and while it remains to be seen when he makes his debut, to have both players under contract is a tremendous boost for this club moving forward.
Selected in the first round (sixth overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft, Lindholm has collected 92 points (23g/69a) and a +61 rating in 236 career NHL games with the Ducks. Lindholm led Anaheim with a career-high 115 blocked shots last season, while also pacing team defensemen in goals and appearances, and ranking second in scoring. His potential is tantalizing and his skill level is world class. His return solidifies a d-core that features 24-year-old Cam Fowler and 25-year-olds Josh Manson and Sami Vatanen.
It could be a seamless transition for Lindholm once he joins the Ducks. He says he's been skating with his former Rogle BK team of the Swedish Elite League throughout this time.
"I've been skating with them since I got home," he said. "You always want to play hockey. You don't want to be sitting and waiting. I've been practicing hard and skating every day. I feel like I'm in good shape."