Flames Arbitration With Tkachuk Could Lead to Big Trade With Blues

The Calgary Flames have given themselves a little more time. With the organization electing to file for salary arbitration with forward Matthew Tkachuk, the team has taken the chance of an offer sheet and/or Tkachuk signing a qualifying offer off the table. There are essentially three choices left, none which need to be decided before the orginal Friday deadline that a qualifying offer would have brought with it.

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At this point, the Flames can sign Tkachuk to a long-term deal, let the NHL assign an abritration date and accept what the arbitrator awards, or trade Tkackuk. If the long-term deal was an option, one would think that deal would have been done by now. Not only that, Calgary doesn’t want the arbitration award because it walks Tkachuk into free agency. The trade option seems the most likely and insiders believe it’s simply a matter of time before one is completed.

Flames Buying Time to Negotiate a Tkachuk Trade?

If you ask a number of media members who follow the Flames closely, a Tkachuk trade isn’t a matter of if, but when. Listen to Eric Francis of Sportsnet and he’ll tell anyone that will listen on the multiple shows he’s been a guest on over the past 24 hours that the deal will happen by the end of this week.

If Tkachuk has told the Flames he’s not interested in a long-term deal, a trade becomes the only realistic play from an organizational perspective. That means the team has a couple of weeks to put a deal together that nets them the best possible return.

The Blues Are the Leading Candidate

That Calgary is looking at this now gives them more options than they had with Johnny Gaudreau. They could shop Tkachuk around to multiple teams now versus selling him off as a rental at the deadline and try to put together the best return from the many teams who would like a player like Tkachuk on their roster for the full 2022-23 season. It’s a great idea in theory, assuming the player is interested in multiple teams.

Related: Flames Filing for Arbitration with Tkachuk is a Very Bad Sign

Tkachuk doesn’t have trade protection written into his contract, but he might as well. What’s been floating around in the rumor mill is that St. Louis is Tkachuk’s destination of choice and that limits the options for the Flames, especially if word gets out there that Tkachuk is bound to end up there. No team will trade for — at least not give up a number of assets — a player who will bolt in a year. If the Blues and Tkachuk are destined for each other, this becomes about negotiating the best deal with St. Louis.

What Might a Trade Look Like?

Francis firmly believes the Flames will get a lot for Tkachuk, someone he called a top-five player in the NHL and a “unicorn” based on the attributes he brings to a team. He mentioned there was no way GM Brad Treliving will settle for the same kind of return Chicago did with Alex DeBrincat and believes Calgary can get a top-six player, a top prospect and a 1st or 2nd round pick.

Jordan Kyrou St. Louis Blues
Jordan Kyrou, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

If he’s right and the Blues are the ones giving that up, Jordan Kyrou‘s name seems to be the most logical fit. Sure, Vladimir Tarasenko is out there in trade talks but the Flames aren’t taking him in a Tkachuk deal — not at his age and with only one year left on his current deal. Tarasenko could be a throw-in because St. Louis would need to clear cap space and Calgary has it, but he’s not the centerpiece of the trade, not by a long shot.

From there, a prospect could be someone like Jake Neighbours, who hails from Alberta could be part of the package: Calgary might want to lean towards Canadian talent since two American-born players seem to be headed back to the U.S. The draft pick is what it is.

Why Would St. Louis Do This Now?

One of the questions people will ask is, ‘why would the Blues give up much of anything for Tkachuk if he’s inevitably bound to wind up there anyways?’ Maybe they don’t, but if they do, the answer will be certainty. If the Blues make the trade and know Tkachuk is on board to sign an eight-year extension, there’s no chance they lose him to a surprise team in free agency. If he’s already property of the Blues, they can give him the eighth year and the best deal. If he isn’t, any team can offer seven years and another team could offer more money. As the hockey world just witnessed with Gaudreau signing in Columbus, anything is possible.

So too, they get him for next season instead of waiting a year. They’ve got Ryan O’Reilly signed for one more season and it’s hard to say what he’ll decide to do next offseason. As for including Kyrou in the trade, one could make the argument the Blues won’t be able to afford to keep both players (Tkachuk and Kyrou) anyways.