With the unrest and underperformance on the Calgary Flames roster, it was only a matter of time before we, as hockey fans, saw some big rumors flying out of that region. There have been some consistent talks about Johnny Gaudreau trades for years, but nothing has come of it yet. This time it came in the form of Sportsnet analyst Shane O’Brien throwing out a rumor that Matthew Tkachuk could want out and be traded this upcoming season on the Sirius XM radio show “The Power Play” with Steve Kouleas. “I heard Tkachuk wants out of Calgary” were the only words he had to articulate for both Steve and the listeners to go berserk. It’s not often that a player of his caliber is rumored to want out.
Here is where the Matthew Tkachuk rumours started yesterday. Shane O’Brien mentions he’s heard Tkachuk wants to play in St. Louis and that a deal for Tarasenko could make sense. #CofRed #stlblues pic.twitter.com/D8s2avrjjY— Paul (@PaulGb_) June 22, 2021
The forward core of the Nashville Predators isn’t good enough. The spark is nonexistent, and the fire that many fans are looking for doesn’t come in very skilled forms. David Poile should definitely be looking at a possible trade for someone who can bring skill and fire. I would implore him to take a look at Tkachuk.
I’ve gone over two players that I would be interested in seeing the Predators take a look at in the offseason. First, I would like them to inquire about Tomas Tatar, an unrestricted free agent, and Vladimir Tarasenko, who officially requested a trade from the St. Louis Blues. While those players are solid in their own respects, Tkachuk is a different breed.
What Does Tkachuk Bring?
Tkachuk is a man of many talents. Not only is he a great hockey player and a core piece of the Flames roster, but also obscenely good at making other players mad. The little things he does to put others off their game make a massive difference in winning and losing. While he does create some controversy, and some of the plays he makes walk the line of dirty and unnecessary, it’s no doubt that his presence is felt whenever he’s on the ice. Whether it be through strong physical play and good forechecking or skilled puck possession and hand-eye coordination in front of the net, there’s no doubt that he brings it all. There’s a lot for every general manager and team to like about him.
As far as the numbers go, Tkachuk has been one of the more consistent players on the Flames. In 349 games, he’s totaled 278 points, and although he has never been a point-per-game player in any of his five seasons, he has been close. He hit the 30-goal and 70-point mark in his age-21 season and would have consistently gotten there had the last two seasons not been cut short.
His ability to throw people off their game hasn’t bothered his ability to score. He has been able to do both things really well for the Flames, and bringing him to a team like Nashville — a team that is slowly getting younger and faster but is missing that sandpaper — could benefit both parties. Both clubs have had a hard time establishing a vision, but with the most recent first-round exit and the ensuing Viktor Arvidsson trade, it appears that Poile has chosen one.
Where Does He Fit In the System/Lineup?
The Predators only had one true irritator on the roster in Nick Cousins. He still has a year left on his contract, and while he is excellent at aggravating others, he’s not a Tkachuk by any means. The two brothers — Matthew and Brady Tkachuk — make their living in front of the net and thrive using their hand-eye coordination to deflect pucks and pot rebounds. It’s most likely where head coach John Hynes would put him, but there would be no shortage of creating shots for his team, considering he was in the 86th percentile of individual shot assists per Corey Sznajder’s microstats and CJ Torturo’s A3Z tool. He can create for himself, but the best part about his game is his ability to create even better chances for others.
In the lineup, he will be on the first line for obvious reasons. Pairing him with Matt Duchene and Filip Forsberg could make for a lethal line of highly skilled players who aren’t afraid to be physical. Another option is placing him with Philip Tomasino on the second line if he does end up making the opening-night lineup. Tomasino is an electric skating forward with a great scoring touch. He isn’t afraid to get in the dirty areas and grind for pucks along the boards either, and he demonstrated that in his depth role on the stacked Canadian team at the 2020 World Junior Championship.
Tkachuk needs to play with at least one supremely skilled player. Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm, along with Tkachuk, had the fourth-highest expected goals for percentage (xGF%) per Evolving-Hockey as a forward combination out of 12 total with a minimum of 50 minutes. They totaled 58.68 percent at 5-on-5, which says they get a fair amount more high-danger chances in their favor than they do against them. It would mutually benefit all three of Forsberg, Duchene, and Tkachuk or both Tomasino and Tkachuk in all sorts of statistical areas. Bringing him in could light a fire under the Predators’ forward core, too.
What Could a Package Look Like?
It wouldn’t be an article about potentially trading for a player that is rumored to be falling out with his current organization without talking about the potential deal for both sides. Considering the recent talks about numerous players such as Seth Jones and Jack Eichel, trade value is a very subjective topic of discussion. One player rumored to be in Tkachuk trade talks is Tarasenko, who I mentioned earlier in the article regarding his request for a trade. The Predators only have a few players that match the pedigree of Tarasenko, and most, if not all, of them are untouchable. At the very least, the front office hasn’t made any hints that they are ready to move them at this point. However, it might be necessary to move on from one of the top three defensemen on the roster.
If I’m Brad Treliving, I start with Mattias Ekholm or Ryan Ellis. They are both top 25-30 defensemen at the very least, and considering Tkachuk’s career trajectory and positioning right now among league forwards, it looks to be a good start. Next, barring being chosen in the expansion draft by the Seattle Kraken, Calle Jarnkrok would be the highest on my list. He’s a solid depth option that can contribute a consistent 15 goals and 30 points to your middle six. Finally, I would add the 2022 second-round draft pick and possibly a later-round pick as well. Poile could add another low-tier prospect into the fray if the value still felt off, but a package of Ellis, Jarnkrok, a 2022 second-round pick and a late-round pick in the same year seems to be fair value.
The Predators could find a way to pull off this trade, and it would benefit both teams if it’s true that Tkachuk is available. The Flames get an extremely solid right-handed defenseman, a consistent depth contributor, and two futures. The Predators get a young top-line contributor that can agitate opponents and get them off their game. Of course, as the year moves on, the Flames could lower their asking price if they get the feeling that he won’t want to play for the club anymore. The last thing they need are disgruntled players, so it will be interesting to see what happens as the offseason continues to move along. Although, the Predators should be involved no matter the time of year.
Jeff is a consistent source for Predators content here at The Hockey Writers. He enjoys watching all sorts of hockey from juniors to the pros, and playing hockey for his high school and local teams in Nashville. He’s a big proponent of hockey analytics, and you’ll often see him using lots of statistics and data to back up his main talking points. You can find his work here, or check out his contributions on his own Substack, or at Last Word on Hockey and On the Forecheck. Lastly, you can listen to him on the Youth Movement Podcast presented by On the Forecheck or the Triple Shift Podcast. For any inquiries about interviews or questions about statistics, analytics, or just general hockey opinions you can message his twitter, @jjmid04.