Blue Jackets’ Pursuit of Matthew Tkachuk Hinges on Laine Trade

The Matthew Tkachuk sweepstakes is officially underway. On Wednesday, per a report from the Athletic, Tkachuk told the Flames that he will not be signing a long-term deal in Calgary.

This points to a trade being imminent for Tkachuk. It’s not often that one of the top players in the NHL is available in the right deal. His presence would improve any team.

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The question we are going to consider here is if the Columbus Blue Jackets should pursue Tkachuk? In order to get a proper answer, we will need to look at this from different angles.

Would Tkachuk Fit on the Blue Jackets?

Tkachuk would be a huge upgrade on the Blue Jackets. His combination of power, finesse and speed make him truly one of the most unique players in the NHL. In terms of the most complete power forwards in the game, he is tops on that list.

Tkachuk would bring a much needed element the Blue Jackets are missing. That’s size and physicality. While the team has addressed this to a small degree adding both Mathieu Olivier and Eric Gudbranson this offseason, they don’t bring it like Tkachuk would. He would become an instant fan favorite given everything he brings to the table.

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While the fit for Tkachuk is obvious, things start to get murky when looking at the rest of the situation. The next question we will consider is should the Blue Jackets pursue a trade for Tkachuk given where they are at?

Should They Make an Offer?

This is where the Blue Jackets would ultimately have to make a decision. With star-winger Patrik Laine un-signed and given their cap situation, the team would need to choose between Laine or pursuing Tkachuk.

Given the recent comments of GM Jarmo Kekalainen, things seem to be pointing to the Blue Jackets eventually getting a contract done with Laine to keep him in Columbus longer term. That’s what both sides want. If that’s the case, then trading for Tkachuk would prove to be very difficult given the cap crunch the team is already in.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
A potential Tkachuk deal to Columbus is proving difficult to see through. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

If the Blue Jackets decide to inquire about Tkachuk, there’s a good chance that Laine would need to be included in a deal back to the Flames. The reported package seems to indicate a top player, a top prospect and a first-round pick.

While Tkachuk is the real deal, I’m not sure the Blue Jackets are ready to give up the required assets to make this deal happen. The deal would go something like this: Laine, a 2023 first-round pick and a high-level prospect. I can’t see the Blue Jackets parting with a 2023 first rounder.

The Blue Jackets just took the last two years to build their prospect pool up. Why would they want to tap into that now when they still have a ways to go in their own progression?

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But let’s play devil’s advocate. What if Tkachuk was interested in Columbus? What if he wanted to sign long-term? What if he wanted to play with Johnny Gaudreau? Then from a Blue Jackets’ standpoint, you at least have to think about it.

In that case, a potential Tkachuk deal would most likely hinge on a Laine trade. Keeping both Laine and Tkachuk seems rather difficult both from a cap standpoint and from a trade package standpoint. You’d likely need somewhere in the $17-$19 million range in cap space to pull off signing both. That is only if the Flames got a deal that didn’t involve Laine.

Signs Point to No Deal Here

Here’s the other thing to consider with Tkachuk. He ultimately holds some control given how close he is to UFA status. The Flames will want to maximize their return on any trade package. That only happens if he goes to a destination that he’s willing to sign long-term with.

Is the Blue Jackets on that acceptable list? We really don’t know. The general thought is that Tkachuk wants to play in the United States. But there is disagreement about what teams he’d be willing to sign long-term with.

If I had to lay a percentage down here, I’d say 2% tops. As we said above, Tkachuk might see the Blue Jackets as a place that is ready to win. He might have a strong desire to come to Columbus. He could join his good friend Johnny Gaudreau.

Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames
Could Johnny Gaudreau influence Matthew Tkachuk in any way? (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

I just don’t see the Blue Jackets trading Laine now or having a willingness to part with important pieces to acquire Tkachuk. Then considering the cap situation, other moves already have to be made. This would just add on to the list of things to do.

If the shocker does happen, I would expect Laine to be part of a trade package. From a cap perspective, that would seem to make the most sense. Otherwise they’re racing to find Jake Voracek and Gus Nyquist new homes.

Related: How the Columbus Blue Jackets Can Retain Patrick Laine

At this time, the expectation is that Laine will sign and then a corresponding cap move will happen to balance that out. Laine and Gaudreau together could become something special.

The evidence this time is suggesting Tkachuk will be elsewhere in the United States. When you consider Tkachuk has some control over this along with the Blue Jackets’ overall situation, it’s hard to see this one coming to pass in Columbus.

But if we know anything about the Blue Jackets, never say never. No one saw Gaudreau coming to Columbus, right?