Over the past few weeks, rumors have swirled that Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk may want to return home and play for the St. Louis Blues. When first mentioned by The Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford, most took it as something that may happen many years down the road, not in the near future. However, things have changed since then, especially since former NHLer and current Sportsnet analyst Shane O’Brien appeared on Steve Kouleas’ podcast and suggested Tkachuk may indeed be looking to move on from Calgary.
O’Brien also mentioned that he believes Tkachuk wants to play for the Blues and suggested swapping him for Vladimir Tarasenko may make sense for both parties. There were rumors not too long ago that the Blues were considering moving the Russian sniper, so his name being brought up in a Tkachuk trade makes sense from that perspective. However, while there is no denying Tarasenko is a great player, the Flames would be very foolish to make this deal for a number of reasons.
Over the past two seasons, Tkachuk has missed just one game. Despite playing a physical style, he has been able to remain relatively healthy throughout his entire NHL career to this point and doesn’t have any injury history that may leave a cause for concern. The same cannot be said about Tarasenko, who has played a combined 34 games through the last two seasons, missing 93 due to shoulder injuries.
Tarasenko has had three shoulder surgeries throughout his NHL career, which certainly causes some concerns as to how durable he will be moving forward. On top of that, he is 29 years of age. While that isn’t old by any means, he is six years older than Tkachuk, who, as mentioned, has had very little injury history in his NHL career. It is pretty clear who has more cause for concern when it comes to being injury-prone.
Style of Game
Since making his NHL debut, Flames fans have quickly grown to love Tkachuk and the style of game he plays. Not only is he offensively gifted, but he is one of the best agitators in the entire league and plays a physical, hard game that makes life difficult for his opponents. Tarasenko is not that type of player. While he is very offensively gifted aswell, especially in regards to his goalscoring abilities, he does not have much grittiness to his game.
While Tarasenko has had some great seasons in the past and scored north of thirty goals in five straight seasons from 2014 to 2019, it is unclear if he will be able to continue that same offensive production moving forward. In this most recent 2020-21 season, for example, he managed to score just four goals and 14 points in 24 games. Certainly a small sample size, but it makes you question if the low goal total may be in relation to past injuries.
Most would suggest that out of the two, Tarasenko is the more offensively talented player. That is likely the case as his skill set is among the NHL’s elite, however, if you take a look at their career stats the numbers are quite similar. Through 531 career games, Tarasenko has 442 points for a 0.83 points per game (P/PG) pace. Tkachuk has logged 349 games in his career and has posted 278 points in that time for a P/GP pace of .80. These numbers are very similar, and given how much more rounded of a player Tkachuk is, makes it clear that a straight-up swap of the two players would be a downgrade for the Flames.
Prime Years Ahead
Another reason, and perhaps the biggest, as to why this deal doesn’t make sense is the age gap between the players. As mentioned above, Tarasenko is 29 while Tkachuk is just 23. Some players don’t become NHL regulars by the age of 23, meaning that Tkachuk’s best days are still ahead of him. With Tarasenko, he may still have some good years going forward as well, but there is no denying that many players begin to decline once in their 30s, something he is only six months away from.
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It seems as though Tkachuk’s off 2020-21 season has many forgetting just how good of a player he is when he is on top of his game. This is a player who is facing criticism for the first time in his career and has a chance to respond in a big way not only next season but for many going forward. Trading him for a much older player with the injury history Tarasenko has makes little sense for this Flames team.
Tkachuk Holds the Cards
Prior to this season, many thought that Tkachuk would become the captain of this team once Mark Giordano’s time was up. Despite that now being questioned, it is important that both Flames fans and management realize this off-year was likely more of an outlier than a trend going forward. Moving him at this point, unless the return is extremely impressive, doesn’t seem worth the risk.
Of course, if O’Brien’s rumor of Tkachuk wanting out of Calgary is true, the Flames may have no choice but to move on from him. Based on anything he’s said to the media in the past, he seems to love playing for the Flames, but we all know players aren’t very open when talking to the press. If he has or does request a trade, then Brad Treliving would certainly have to figure a deal out. A straight-up deal for Tarasenko, however, is not the way to go.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.