Blockbuster Flames Trade Could Hugely Benefit the Oilers

During an interview with Bob Stauffer on Oilers Now, ESPN analyst and respected hockey insider Kevin Weekes told Bob he was dancing around the million-dollar question when talking about how the Oilers did against the Flames in their five-game series: Did fans just witness Johnny Gaudreau‘s last game in a Calgary Flames’ uniform?

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Stauffer got to talking about the contract situations for both Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and then relayed to Weekes that Sportsnet’s Flames reporter Eric Francis said he didn’t think both players would be back. He then turned the question back around on Weekes and asked him what he thought. He responded, “I don’t either.” Weekes said it might be 50/50 as to who goes but he reiterated, “I don’t see both of them being back.”

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He then added that regardless of who it is, “That changes the dimension of the Battle of Alberta.”

What Would a Trade Mean For Calgary?

While both Gaudreau and Tkachuk said during media avails on Saturday that they would open to staying with the Flames and that they both love it in Calgary, there has long been speculation that two U.S.-born players would love to go play in the U.S. If the Flames feel like either is leaning towards leaving, it would be incumbent upon the organization to try to get something out of a trade.

In the case of Gaudreau, it would be well-served for the Flames to trade his rights before or at the NHL Entry Draft and retain some kind of value versus letting him walk for no return at all. If it’s Tkachuk, it would be because the Flames have talked to the player and realize how high his ask is. They might deem it too high or get the sense he wants to walk himself into unrestricted free agency as early as possible. Alternatively, it could be that Flames will have signed Gaudreau, have to worry about money and they realize the value they can get in a trade for Tkachuk is high. As an RFA, GM Brad Treliving can get the best return from a team that has some control in negotiations.

No matter which way things go, the Flames are giving up the best player in the deal.

How This Benefits the Oilers

If either Gaudreau or Tkachuk isn’t in Calgary next season, that’s a 100-plus point player coming out of the lineup every time the Oilers play the Flames. In Gaudreau’s case, he’s arguably the most skilled player on the team. He might not have produced big numbers in their Stanley Cup Playoff series but he was one of the few members of the Flames that looked continually dangerous. His dynamic skill and craftiness always make him a threat to score.

Johnny Gaudreau
CALGARY, AB – APRIL 11: Johnny Gaudreau 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on April 11, 2019 at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

In Tkachuk’s case, leaving would be a highly-skilled pest who likes to stir things up and try to get the Oilers on tilt. Few Flames have riled up the Oilers in games as Tkachuk has. He’s the epitome of a player you’d love to have on your team but hate to play against.

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Should the Oilers not have to worry about those guys moving forward, it takes away another threat that Edmonton will play multiple times in the regular season and potentially again in a future playoff matchup. Even more so, if the rumors of where each player might want to wind up are true — Gaudreau in Philadelphia (or New Jersey) and Tkachuk in St. Louis — it takes both players out of the Pacific Division entirely.

Flames’ Top Line Gets Exponentially Worse

If either player leaves, the Flames lose one-third of their potent top line. It could be argued they were the most dominant line in hockey this past season. A Gaudreau trade doesn’t bring the Flames back a top-line player: not when he can sign virtually anywhere on the opening day of free agency. A Tkachuk trade might bring a big return, but that player won’t be as good. All outcomes help Edmonton.

Calgary may be able to pull off some sort of blockbuster deal and salvage something out of one or both of these guys leaving, but regardless of the specifics of said trade, the Oilers would get a little bit better in their division without having to change a thing.