The Toronto Maple Leafs need a player like Matthew Tkachuk. If the 23-year-old wants to be traded, Toronto must head to Calgary and aggressively pursue a deal with the Flames. Quite simply, he checks every box the Maple Leafs are missing and what they desperately need to finally win a playoff round.
Last month, rumors surfaced the gritty winger wanted a trade, and talks were going on with the St. Louis Blues. Shane O’Brien, a co-host of the Steve Kouleas Powerplay podcast, said the Blues would trade Vladimir Tarasenko to acquire Tkachuk. Calgary has denied the rumours. I would too, but it’s no secret the Flames plan on making moves this offseason. Many observers expect significant trades, including Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and even captain Mark Giordano are on the trade block. If that’s the case, then the front office would be wise to listen to offers on Tkachuk too. After next season, he is a restricted free agent.
Tkachuk is an Elite Antagonizer
Love him or hate him; he’s what Toronto is lacking. Since trading Nazem Kadri, Toronto does not have a player who can mix it up and torment the opposition. They are still missing net-front presence and do not have the grit and toughness needed to win in the playoffs. Sure the Maple Leafs signed Wayne Simmonds for a two-year deal. He provides some toughness and does go in front of the crease. But he disappeared at the end of last season and he is destined for the fourth line. Tkachuk would be a first-line player that would add a whole new wrinkle to the team.
The skilled forward is also good friends with the face of the franchise, Auston Matthews. Both have ties to Scottsdale, Arizona and developed a bond while coming up in the U.S. national development program. The star forwards were drafted in the same year, Matthews first overall and Tkachuk went sixth. The two hung out together in the days leading up to the draft. They took a ride on the Maid of the Mist at Niagara Falls. Leafs TV caught up with them after they got off the boat. Check out the video below.
Matthews has always spoken highly of his buddy. “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,” said Matthews on January 15, 2020. “He gets under other guys’ skin, and he does a really good job at it. To go with it, he’s a heck of a player, as well, and puts up great numbers. Easy to play with. Makes plays all over the ice. Goes into those dirty areas and really good in front of the net. He uses his size. So a really good player.”
Fairly Simple Trade
There’s a reasonably simple swap that could happen here. Suppose there is any truth Tarasenko would be headed to Calgary. In that case, Toronto could easily beat that deal by offering William Nylander. Nylander is four years younger and $600,000 cheaper than Tarsenko while averaging similar career numbers. Nylander and Tkachuk make close to the same money, which means the core-four problem is not solved with this trade. But it does address the toughness and grit problem the Leafs have by adding an elite antagonizer. Rumors are swirling around players on both teams. Perhaps even a bigger deal could be worked out. These two franchises have hooked up for blockbuster transactions in the past.
January 31, 2010
The Flames dealt Phaneuf (who eventually became the 24th captain in Leafs’ history), Fredrik Sjöström and Keith Aulie to Toronto in exchange for Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers. Both teams seem to be at a point where they will have to do something to change their fortunes.
January 2, 1992
Calgary traded Doug Gilmour to Toronto as part of a ten-player swap, the largest trade in NHL history. Along with Gilmour, the Flames sent Jamie Macoun, Ric Nattress, Kent Manderville and Rick Wamsley to Toronto in exchange for Gary Leeman, Craig Berube, Michel Petit, Alexander Godynyuk and Jeff Reese.
As an added bonus, the battle of Ontario would take on a new twist pitting the Tkachuk brothers against each other. However, I’m not holding my breath. I don’t see Calgary trading away this talent. If they are moving some big names, they are likely looking for picks and prospects in return to start a rebuild under Darryl Sutter. Given Tkachuk’s age, skills and leadership abilities, he would be a good player to keep for the future. That said, if there is a chance, Toronto has to be at the table and ready to pay, maybe even overpay.
Kevin Armstrong is an award-winning journalist with more than two decades of experience. He’s been rink side for World Juniors, Memorial Cups, Calder Cups and Stanley Cups. Like many Canadian kids, his earliest memories include hockey. Kevin has spent countless hours in arenas throughout the country watching all levels of the game.