On Wednesday, it appeared that the Calgary Flames had a very good shot at landing Jack Eichel from the Buffalo Sabres. This was due to the fact that a credible insider in Kevin Weekes tweeted that general manager (GM) Brad Treliving had offered Matthew Tkachuk, a former first round pick, two prospects and a future first round to the Sabres. That offer seemed to most like an overpay, and a no brainer for Sabres GM Kevyn Adams to accept.
That never happened, however, as early the next day it was confirmed that Eichel had instead been dealt to the Vegas Golden Knights for Peyton Krebs, Alex Tuch, a 2022 first-round pick, and a 2023 second-round pick. The Golden Knights also received a third-round pick from the Sabres in the 2023 draft. This was deemed by most as a solid return, but was a head-scratcher given that it seemed far less valuable than the one that the Flames had offered. As we have since learned however, that offer from the Flames never existed.
Tkachuk Was Never Up for Grabs
It has since been confirmed by some of the game’s most credible insiders that while the Flames were in on Eichel until the end, Tkachuk was never part of a potential trade. The 23-year-old spoke with media shortly after the official trade happened in regards to his name being involved in plenty of rumors.
“I had a hard time believing it was true,” Tkachuk said. “So, I just went about my business like I normally do the night before a game.”
Tkachuk also said he did speak with Treliving shortly after Weekes’ tweet, but declined to comment how the discussion between the two went.
Flames Not in a Position to Trade Tkachuk
As I had mentioned in a column this past week, the Flames weren’t in a position to trade for Eichel given how well they have started in 2021-22. A deal between them and the Sabres would have made much more sense in the offseason, however even then moving Tkachuk as a part of that deal would have been quite puzzling.
There is no denying Eichel is a more talented player than Tkachuk. At his best, he is a top 10 player in the league, and still has a chance to move into top five territory given his age. However, Tkachuk, while not as skilled, is still a very good player, and the most valuable piece on the Flames roster. It simply would not have made sense to trade Tkachuk, along with the other picks and/or prospects it would have taken, for a player in Eichel who has questions surrounding his health right now.
Some this offseason would have pointed to Tkachuk’s down 2020-21 season to suggest he should have been moved for Eichel at the time. It is true that he wasn’t at his best, recording 43 points in 56 games. Playing in front of fans this season however has seemed to give him the jump he was missing last season, and has gotten off to a solid start, scoring five times through the Flames first 10 games.
He also provides some tangibles that Eichel doesn’t have in his game. He is the far more physical player, one who isn’t afraid to throw a big hit or drop the gloves. On top of that, he is one of the games best pests, and can often get top players on the opposition off their games. This isn’t meant as a knock on Eichel, he just isn’t that type of player.
One argument detractors reading this may make is the fact that Eichel is locked into his current deal for four more seasons after 2021-22, while Tkachuk’s current deal expires at season’s end. This is a fair point, but once again, you would have been moving your most valuable piece for a player who you hope returns to his former self after his neck operation. There are no guarantees in that, and if that ended up being the case, the Flames would have been big time losers in this trade. That, on top of the fact that it is likely only a matter of time until an extension happens with Tkachuk, is yet another reason the debunked trade made little to no sense.
Different Deal Could Have Been Made
While I don’t believe moving roster players at this point was all that logical, I can understand Flames fans frustration that this deal didn’t materialize. It continues a long trend of this team being in the running for a star player only to fall short. What hurts even more is seeing that the Golden Knights weren’t forced to part with an overly significant part of their current roster.
Because of that, the Golden Knights may be forced to do some difficult cap juggling if Eichel is able to return before seasons end. It won’t be easy, and they will be forced to move some pieces on their current roster to make room for him, but it is fair to wonder why the Flames didn’t see this as an option. It is unfortunate, and fans have reason to be upset, but there is nothing that can be done to change it now. The good news is that this team is off to a great start early on, sitting second place in the Pacific Division through the first 10 games of the season. Fans sure hope that continues moving forward.
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: Oil On Whyte, NHLtradetalk.com, 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.