Bruins Face Long Odds to Acquire Flames’ Tkachuk

It’s been eight days since the beginning of free agency and the Boston Bruins have been one of, along with the New York Islanders, quietest teams. The only move to date from general manager (GM) Don Sweeney is trading Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils for middle-six forward Pavel Zacha, who is a restricted free agent (RFA) and needs a new contract.

One of the biggest reasons that Sweeney and the Bruins have been quiet is because they are a cap team, with just $2.4 million available at the beginning of free agency. They opened up more cap space with the Haula trade and now sit at just under $5 million. It’s not like that’s free money for the Boston GM as he is still waiting on word from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci as to whether or not they will return to the Black and Gold for the 2022-23 season. They also have Zach and Jack Studnicka that are RFA’s that need new deals.

One story that has become the talk of the NHL in the last few days is Matthew Tkachuk’s future with the Calgary Flames. One week after forward Johnny Gaudreau left town to sign as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Tkachuk told the Flames that he would not sign long-term, thus most likely putting him on the trading block (from ‘Matthew Tkachuk tells Flames he won’t re-sign long term; trade likely: Sources,’ The Athletic, July 20, 2022). All 32 teams would love to add the talent of Tkachuk’s, but in reality for the Bruins, it’s a long shot at best to acquire the talented left wing.

Why It’s a Long Shot for the Bruins

There are a couple of reasons why getting Tkachuk in a trade is not within reach for the Bruins. The first one is limited cap space, as stated above. They have limited cap space to start with, no top-two centers currently under contract, and questions surrounding the roster makeup with Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk out to begin the season following offseason surgeries. Yes, Tkachuk would be a nice addition to the top-line in Marchand’s place, but Taylor Hall, Zacha, and Jake DeBrusk are internal options for now.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Second, it is going to require a big haul in return for one of the league’s top forwards. Along with NHL player-ready talent off of the current roster, the Bruins are extremely limited in any prospects they could offer up that would excite Flames GM Brad Treliving. Fabian Lysell, and Mason Lohrei would be prospects that might get Treliving talking, but after that, does Studnicka, Trent Frederic, or any other prospect get a deal done? Highly unlikely. Does Sweeney part ways with the Black and Gold’s 2023 or 2024 first-round draft pick too? He has not been too hesitant to trade away first-round picks in the past.

Finally, then there’s the direction the Bruins are heading, which apparently the front office has yet to decide which way they want to go. It’s likely they are waiting for Bergeron and Krejci to give them their decisions on their futures, but acquiring Tkachuk and then immediately go into a rebuild is not the way to rebuild, especially for an organization that has limited assets, to begin with.

Where Tkachuk Would Fit in Boston

Don’t get me wrong, acquiring a player who has the talent Tkachuk has and coming off a career year in goals with 42, assists with 62, and 104 points would be a huge pickup. The 24-year-old, selected sixth overall in the 2016 Entry Draft by Calgary, is an instant top-line caliber player.

Related: Sweeney & Bruins’ Uninspiring Start to Free Agency Is Concerning

With Marchand sidelined until sometime in November at the earliest, he would slot in as the first line left wing. When Marchand returns, a left-wing depth of Marchand, Tkachuk, and Hall would be as deep of a position grouping that first-year coach Jim Montgomery would have. Imagine a first-line in Boston next season of Tkachuk, Bergeron, and Pastrnak or DeBrusk to begin the season? Then when Marchand returns, a hypothetical second line of Tkachuk, Krejci, and Pastrnak or DeBrusk? In reality, if the Bruins are going to pull a Tkachuk trade, DeBrusk would more than likely be a part of it. 

Sweeney Must at Least Contact Flames & Talk Despite Lacking Assets

If Sweeney doesn’t call Treliving and even have very preliminary discussions, it’s a mistake. Most, if not all other GMs will be calling Calgary in the coming days. A lot of other teams can offer a lot more to the Flames than what Sweeney and the Bruins front office can.

Don Sweeney Bruins
Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins general manager (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In reality, the Bruins could offer any combination of DeBrusk, Craig Smith, Derek Forbort, Mike Reilly, Studnicka, and draft picks. Anyone not named Jeremy Swayman, Marchand, Pastrnak, McAvoy, Lysell, or Lohrei should be made available for Treliving. It’s worth kicking the tires for Sweeney, but in the big picture, Boston’s odds of landing Tkachuk is about as long as anyone else’s in their current situation. A more realistic trade option with the Flames for the Bruins should be Blake Coleman or Noah Hanifin. Tkachuk will cost a lot more and the Bruins currently don’t have “a lot more’’ to offer.

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