With the recent news of Matthew Tkachuk‘s unwillingness to re-sign with the Calgary Flames dominating the headlines, general manager (GM) Brad Treliving is undoubtedly fielding many calls from rival GMs regarding trades for the 24-year-old superstar. It is unfortunate to see drafted talent ditch the Flaming ‘C’ for some alternative threads, but the Flames have a unique situation on their hands given that they own Tkachuk’s rights as a restricted free agent and therefore can maximize a return for his services. So yes, it will be sad to see him go, but trades such as this don’t happen all that often and can truly make or break a team’s upcoming season(s) depending on the results.
Of course, this news comes after the team already lost another superstar in Johnny Gaudreau which combined to make for quite the tumultuous summer for Flames fans. Tkachuk was recently rumoured to have submitted a list of teams that he would sign long-term extensions with to Flames brass, making their jobs a bit easier or harder depending on one’s take (from ‘Matthew Tkachuk tells Flames he won’t re-sign long term; trade likely: Sources,’ The Athletic, 7/21/22). This list supposedly included the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Florida Panthers, Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers, which leaves immense room for speculation from fans and media alike. Many will surely be constructing mock trades for each of these and other respective squads, right up until the eventual day a deal takes place.
Let’s make one thing clear, many like to point out winners and losers of big trades in the NHL; however, any trade scenarios involving getting rid of a player like Tkachuk are a loss for the Flames. There is truly no replacing a player that has been dubbed an NHL “unicorn”, meaning he can do it all on the ice: shoot, pass, hit, check, score, grind, and fight (if necessary). A former sixth-overall draft pick in 2016, he is almost a point-per-game player (382 points in 431 games) over his first six seasons. His popularity, media presence and leadership qualities on the ice and in the locker room as an alternate captain are just the icing on the cake. It also doesn’t hurt that he has hockey in his DNA, being the firstborn son of 18-year NHL veteran Keith Tkachuk and older brother to current Ottawa Senators captain Brady.
Jack Eichel Deal Sets the Bar
The Flames also hold the cards despite the ordeal being made public and other teams knowing Tkachuk wants out. It is definitely not every day a 100-point scorer that is still very young becomes available for trade, and rival clubs will have to woo Treliving while also out-competing the other interested GMs. The team simply needs to get the best available deal to try and mitigate as much of the loss as possible. Most likely, that means restructuring the top-six forward core with a new NHL-level player that can contribute immediately, then adding another player or prospect and a first-round pick. If Jack Eichel (plus a third-round pick) could get the Buffalo Sabres Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and a first and second-round pick, then this price is more than reasonable for Tkachuk’s services.
Though the centre position that Eichel plays is more coveted, Tkachuk should still be heralded as being of higher value. Therefore the return should be greater, or at the very least equal to what Vegas received last year. The best-case scenario sees Treliving receive someone that effectively takes Tkachuk’s spot on the top line, then move up a player such as sniper Andrew Mangiapane (assuming he re-signs) to top line duties flanking centre Elias Lindholm. After a 35-goal season, he has certainly proved that he can play at a higher level and should be given a long look there at the very least. In addition to said player, they would get their first-round pick, followed by a forward that can slot into the bottom six or maybe a bottom-four defenseman.
It seems the Flames are pretty set down the middle of the ice with Lindholm, Michael Backlund, Sean Monahan, and one of Kevin Rooney or Adam Ruzicka. Thus, their top priority while perusing offers should be solid wingers to round out the forward lines. Picks or getting a prospect will be important in any deal as well, given that the team’s farm system is a tad thin and if they, for whatever reason, underachieve in the near future it provides them with some security. To reiterate, no outcome involving losing Tkachuk will look favourably on the Flames, but they still need to find a way to save face and right the ship to stay competitive for the upcoming 2022-23 season.
Derek Olsen has a Bachelor of General Studies with focuses in History and English, and is now working on a Bachelor of Education. He grew up an avid sports fan and participant, but hockey has and always will be the most important to him. Eat, sleep, and hockey. Blood, sweat, tears, and hockey. He has a relative presence in the ever-expanding sports card industry and claims his collection will “be his retirement”. He is pleased to be able to write for The Hockey Writers and to cover the Calgary Flames.