Matthew Tkachuk’s Place in Panthers Lineup

Last month, the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames shook up the hockey world by announcing what was most likely the biggest trade of the offseason. The Flames sent forward Matthew Tkachuk to the Panthers, along with a conditional fourth-round selection in 2023, in exchange for forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt and a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2025. Immediately following the trade, he signed a massive eight-year extension worth $9.5 million a year. He easily keeps this team as a playoff contender and extended their Cup window, but the question is where can he be slotted into the lineup?

Tkachuk’s Case for the Top Line

Assuming Tkachuk gets the left-wing slot on the top line, it will immediately become one of the most dangerous units in the NHL. Not only does this line have someone willing to get dirty, but it also has a top-10 center in captain Aleksander Barkov, who is also very selfless with the puck. During the 2021-22 season, he had 88 points (39 goals, 49 assists) through 67 appearances. Additionally, Carter Verhaeghe has stepped up as a winger since arriving in South Florida and has shown he can play in playoff situations. He led the team last season in playoff points with 12 (six goals, six assists) in 10 games.

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk had his first career 100-point season last season and has zero signs of slowing down from that. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

On paper, this seems like a no-brainer. But with the existing talent throughout the top six, putting him on the second line makes a lot of sense, too.

Tkachuk on the Second Line

With the departure of Huberdeau, the second line has an empty spot on the left wing. Tkachuk can slot into that open gap that was left from the trade. Assuming he’s there, he’ll be on the same line as one of his former teammates from Calgary in center Sam Bennett, who also plays a gritty style. Furthermore, Sam Reinhart could make the jump to the second line after he had the best season of his career with 82 points (33 goals, 49 assists) through 78 regular-season games played. On the other hand, Colin White could also come up to the second line instead to avoid losing any chemistry with the third line while also giving Tkachuk a fast winger to work with.

Related: Tkachuk Unlikely to Live Up to Expectations with Panthers

Also, Anthony Duclair is not expected to return from injury until after the All-Star Break this season. Tkachuk on the second line could balance out the top six until he returns, while also keeping strong talent throughout all four lines. In addition to that, when he does return, it may push him to return to the top line. However, this gives head coach Paul Maurice another potential line with another fast winger who can score on the rush.

Would the Third or Fourth Line Be a Good Fit for Tkachuk?

The grit Tkachuk provides can be very useful on a grinding fourth line featuring forwards who are willing to do the dirty work in Ryan Lomberg and Nick Cousins. In addition, they have a tremendous veteran presence in Patric Hornqvist. Furthermore, he could be on a good line with Anton Lundell, a terrific two-way center coming off of his rookie year.

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However, because of his recent point production and the massive amount of money he’ll be making per season, the bottom six may not be seen as an option for Tkachuk unless Maurice gets in a bind. Nonetheless, it is still an idea to keep in Maurice’s back pocket.

Where Will Tkachuk Be Placed?

Overall, the top line option seems like a no-brainer to anyone watching this team. But with the talent throughout the top nine, it might be a lot harder to find somewhere for Tkachuk to be slotted into than coaches and fans realize. Ultimately, it is a good problem to have for the Panthers and despite where they place him in the lineup, he’s going to flourish in one way or another.

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