Maple Leafs & Flames Should Consider a Marner/Tkachuk Swap

Things have gone from bad to worse with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Mitch Marner. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a great player and has the ability to put up points, but it’s just not happening. The team is now seven games into the season, and he has one assist.

On the other end, the Calgary Flames may be looking to change things around if they don’t see a drastic improvement from last season. Johnny Gaudreau is in the last year of his contract, while there could be a fire sale in Calgary if the team isn’t where they want to be when the deadline approaches. If Gaudreau decides to leave or doesn’t show interest in re-signing with the team, they may have to decide to blow it up.

Can Trading Mitch Marner Change the Maple Leafs’ Fortunes?

Generally, we could chalk this up to early-season struggles, and Marner will turn it around. I’m actually counting on it. The problem remains that it’s not only this season that brings issues with him in Toronto. He is a $10.9 million player that is unimpactful and nowhere to be found some nights. A player being paid that much needs to show up every night and be a factor.

Mitch Marner Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs, Mitchell Marner (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)

The cap space and power play are big issues as well. Paying four players as much as they do, the Maple Leafs will continue to have cap issues and have to resort to filling their lineup with players on league minimum ($750k). There have been talks for some time now about when the cap problem first came up and what possible solutions could be. Many pointed fingers at William Nylander, but through the playoffs last season and this year, he has proven that he may be underpaid. Marner, on the other hand, has a lot to prove to cancel out his recent performance.

Most fans are well aware of the goal drought. Marner has recorded at least 60 points in each of his five seasons in the NHL, so history tells us that his fortunes will change. But this league is also always full of surprises. He has the talent to do so, and you’d expect the Maple Leafs to figure it out sometime soon, but until then, none of us can do anything but watch and give our opinions.

This was after the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Tack on another one to that streak. Marner has also failed to score in the last two playoffs, more than 12 games. He has eight assists over that span while playing over 23:30 per night.

The Maple Leafs haven’t had issues making the playoffs in an Atlantic Division that has top-tier teams year after year. The problem, as many know too well, is getting out of the first round. This is the fourth year of John Tavares and the big four in Toronto, and they haven’t made any strides forward. They can’t keep repeating the same mistakes and not change anything. The Boston Bruins outplayed the Maple Leafs and were more physical, while the Montreal Canadiens outworked them.

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Someone who isn’t afraid of getting in the dirty areas and stirring things up each play is exactly what they’re missing. There hasn’t been an issue with scoring in the past, so losing a tad of offence to gain in physicality and size could be the solution. Something has to be done before the Leafs’ top-end players get run out of town or don’t want to re-sign because of the atmosphere surrounding them.

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If Matthew Tkachuk Wants Out of Calgary, He’d Fit Nicely in Toronto

The Flames are a team that has won one playoff round since the 2008-09 season. The core they have also doesn’t seem to be working. After failing to qualify for the playoffs in a weak North Division, there are many questions. Mark Giordano is gone, Gaudreau is in his final year, and Sean Monahan has one year remaining on his contract after this season. The Flames could look to really change things up, and Matthew Tkachuk could be their best trade chip.

There were rumours about Tkachuk wanting out of Calgary in the summertime. Vladimir Tarasenko also made it known that he wanted out of St. Louis, so trade scenarios were drawn up for the teams to swap those players, but it looks like Tarasenko is standing pat in St. Louis for now.

That opens the possibility of Calgary considering sending Tkachuk to Toronto at some point this year. It may be more realistic to think if this happens, it will be around the offseason. But you never know, and both teams could need an immediate change before the trade deadline.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tkachuk may not be as efficient at putting up points in the regular season as Marner, but he brings a level to the game that puts every team on watch. To this point, Tkachuk actually has more points (two) than Marner (one) in fewer games. The cross-checking rule is being enforced even more, so when Tkachuk is in front of the net terrorizing the opposing goalie, it will be even harder to get him out of there without taking a penalty. His antics and the ability to get under the opposing team’s skin is highly underappreciated when that can give your team a power play. Yes, the Maple Leafs would have to figure out their power play, but it’s a power play nonetheless, and they have an advantage.

Tkachuk has ties to the Maple Leafs already, Auston Matthews in particular. They were both in the U.S. national development program together and were drafted in the same year, 2016. Matthews has had nothing but positive things to say about Tkachuk, and that chemistry and familiarity could help him fit in seamlessly into the Maple Leafs’ team.

“I think he’s just a guy that you love to have on your team and on your side, and a guy you hate to play against. I mean he just likes to compete out there.”

– Auston Matthews

High praise for his former teammate, and I don’t believe that Matthews’ opinion about Tkachuk has changed since last year. I don’t see Matthews being too upset about a deal involving Tlachuk joining him in Toronto.

There are multiple options there if the two teams do decide to talk trade with one another, whether it’s sooner or later.

Maple Leafs/Flames Trade Scenarios

It’s not that unlikely anymore seeing former top picks be swapped. Just last season we witnessed the Columbus Blue Jackets and Winnipeg Jets trade Pierre-Luc Dubois and Patrik Laine to one other. This season it looks to be paying off. Sometimes players just need a change in scenery and it could make all the difference. The Flames were on the wrong end of that last season when they sent Sam Bennett to the Florida Panthers.

For this season at least, the Maple Leafs can save themselves almost $4 million in cap space by making a deal with the Flames that involves Marner for Tkachuk and either a prospect(s) or a pick(s). Prospects that the Maple Leafs could have their eye on include anyone from Calgary’s top-20 prospect rankings, but more realistically, one to two in the top-12, depending on exactly what the Flames are willing to give up and what the Leafs may be looking for.

In Toronto, Morgan Rielly’s contract is up at the end of the season, so if they decide not to re-sign him, that opens up the possibility that the Leafs ask for an NHL-ready defenceman along with Tkachuk instead. The Maple Leafs already have their fair share of veterans on the blueline, so they would most likely try and target a young defenceman like Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, or Juuso Valimaki. That price would be too much alone, so there would definitely be something coming back Calgary’s way if this was the direction the trade was going.

It would somewhat fix the big-four issue in Toronto, as they won’t have three players making over $10 million anymore. This has the possibility of being a blockbuster trade, and one that both teams may sorely need.

The pieces may fall perfectly in place for both teams to want to execute the trade, as I believe both players and teams could benefit from the new look. Toronto’s window is now, and something needs to change to help them get over the hump come playoff time, while the Flames need to shuffle up the deck and change their pieces.

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