After entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs as a legitimate contender in the eyes of many, the Calgary Flames fizzled out in the second round versus the Edmonton Oilers. Aside from an offensive outburst in their only win of the series in Game 1, almost nothing went right for this group. As a result, their season has come to an end while their provincial rival moves on.
There was plenty on the line for this Flames team, as general manager Brad Treliving made several acquisitions in order to help his team in their quest for a Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, they fell well short of that goal and will now prepare to enter into an offseason that will have plenty of questions.
Tkachuk & Gaudreau Outclassed by Oilers Stars
While many will point to the play of goaltender Jacob Markstrom as the main reason the Flames were sent packing, he is not the only one who deserves blame. Throughout the entirety of the 2021-22 season, Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk were some of the league’s best players, each having recorded north of 100 points. That great play didn’t carry over into the second round of playoffs for either, however.
In their final four games versus the Oilers, Gaudreau managed just a single goal and three points, while Tkachuk mustered up just one secondary assist. They were completely outclassed by their counterparts’ top two stars, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who registered a combined 22 points over that same span.
While Gaudreau’s 14 points in 12 playoff games certainly aren’t bad totals, the fact of the matter is that yet again, he failed to lead his team to victory in a year where they appeared destined for big things. Tkachuk, on the other hand, had just 10 points over 12 games and now sits with just seven goals and 15 points over 27 career playoff contests. Whether it’s completely fair or not, there is a real narrative that these two tend to fold in high-pressure moments.
Flames Management in a Tough Position
After their big regular seasons, it became clear that both players would be in line for pay raises this summer. Gaudreau is set to become an unrestricted free agent, as his six-year, $40.5 million deal has expired. It is believed that on the open market, he will command somewhere between $9-10 million thanks to his 115-point campaign.
Tkachuk’s contract is up as well, though he is a restricted free agent, which gives the Flames some leverage. He is coming off of a three-year deal that carried a cap hit of $7 million, and like Gaudreau, he’s expected to receive a significant raise. If management chooses to give him a one-year qualifying offer, his cap hit will come in at $9 million for next season, though he may be able to command even more thanks to his 104-point outing this year.
Whether either player wishes to stay in Calgary remains unknown. For years now, Gaudreau has been linked to the Philadelphia Flyers, though he has remained adamant that he loves being a Flame. If they do both wish to stay with their current team and sign long-term, however, is it smart for Treliving to do so?
From a flat-out talent perspective, there is no denying how great both of these players are. Gaudreau, at his best, is one of the game’s most skilled wingers, while Tkachuk brings both an offensive touch paired with a physical styled approach that not many in the game possess. If they were both able to continue their often dominant regular season play into the playoffs, signing both to lengthy and lucrative deals would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, that just hasn’t been the case to this point in their careers.
In his 42 career playoff games, Gaudreau has 33 points, which would be a 64-point pace over an 82-game schedule. For most, those would be very exceptional numbers, but they are quite underwhelming for a player who will likely become one of the game’s highest-paid wingers this summer. As previously mentioned with Tkachuk, he now has 15 points in 27 playoff games, which translates to a 46-point pace over 82 games. Again, for some players, that would be a solid total, but it is quite poor for the money he’ll also receive this summer.
The duo’s inability to step things up yet again in the playoffs puts Treliving in a very tough position. While it would be devastating to let Gaudreau leave for nothing in free agency, is he a player that fans would be comfortable giving a long-term deal to with a cap hit of $9 million-plus, given his lack of playoff struggles? At the age of 28, is there a chance he still has another level he can hit once the postseason arrives, or is this what he is? He was certainly better in this brief playoff run than years in the past, but he was far from the elite player we witnessed during the regular season.
As for Tkachuk, has he shown enough to prove he is a player worth committing to for eight years on a deal that could be as high as $10 million per season? At 24 years old, there is still room for improvement in his game. On top of that, the style he plays the game with suggests he should be a great playoff performer. However, that has not yet been the case, making Treliving’s upcoming decisions with both him and Gaudreau – should they want to return – extremely difficult.
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.