How the Red Wings Could Add Matthew Tkachuk in Massive Trade

For fans of the Calgary Flames, the 2022 NHL offseason has become a nightmare that never seems to end. After losing star winger Johnny Gaudreau for nothing to the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency, the nightmare continues as their next best player, Matthew Tkachuk, has made it clear that he will not be returning to Cow Town on his next contract.

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The 24-year-old Tkachuk has informed his club that he will not be making any sort of long-term commitment to stay in Calgary and has given the Flames a short list of teams that he would prefer to be traded to. He hasn’t officially requested a trade, but it is clear that the only way forward for the Flames is to trade Tkachuk.

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

Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic has reported that the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Florida Panthers, and Nashville Predators are some of the teams on Tkachuk’s list, but the Flames are not bound to just the teams on his list (from ‘Matthew Tkachuk tells Flames he won’t re-sign long-term; trade likely; sources,’ The Athletic, July 20, 2022). Many of those teams are already right up against the salary cap, and finding a way to make room for the $9-10M/year that Tkachuk’s next contract will cost in a flat-cap league is going to be tricky, to say the least. 

One of the few teams that are on the rise and could absorb Tkachuk’s new contract without needing to clear cap space is the Detroit Red Wings. Let’s take a look at what a Tkachuk trade could look like for the Red Wings and what they would have to pay him long-term to keep him in Detroit.

What Would a Trade Mean for the Flames?

A trade for Matthew Tkachuk would likely fetch Calgary the largest trade package since the Jack Eichel trade, which saw him leave the Buffalo Sabres for the Vegas Golden Knights. In that trade, the Sabres received a good roster player in Alex Tuch, a great young prospect in Peyton Krebs, a first-round pick in the 2022 draft, which they used to select Noah Östlund (16th overall), and finally, a second-round pick in the 2023 draft. 

Related: Yzerman Puts Red Wings Back on the Map with Free Agent Moves

Though it isn’t a perfect comparison, I believe that the Eichel trade is a great starting point for any hypothetical Tkachuk trade. Eichel’s value was high as a top-end center, which is a premium position, but his value took a hit due to the uncertainty that surrounded his neck injury and the surgery that he wanted to receive to remedy it. Tkachuk’s value is incredibly high coming off a season where he scored over 100 points and was named one of the NHL’s second-team All-Star players following the regular season. However, the uncertainty around his RFA status and his desire to sign a long-term extension with whichever team he is traded to will temper his value a bit. 

Matthew Tkachuk Calgary Flames
Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames (Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

When it comes to the return that the Flames will be looking at for Tkachuk, I would expect it to be centered around good young NHL players rather than prospects with potential or even draft picks. Over the last few seasons, the Flames have focused their efforts solely on post-season success, leaving them in a very poor spot to begin a true rebuild. Barring a Chicago Blackhawks-level, burn-it-to-the-ground style approach, I would expect the Flames to continue to pursue playoff success even after losing their two best skaters this offseason. They still have plenty of good players and a Vezina Trophy runner-up goaltender in Jacob Markström, so it’s hard to see them tanking anytime soon, and their only path to doing so would require a fire sale (pun very much intended) of epic proportions.

The Red Wings’ Trade Package

The list of players that the Red Wings wouldn’t consider moving in a Tkachuk trade is small, as the chance to add a truly elite winger is hard to pass up. I believe that the Red Wings’ list of untouchable assets includes Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, Moritz Seider, Marco Kasper, and Simon Edvinsson. I believe that every other player on the roster or in the system should be fair game in a hypothetical trade for Tkachuk. By following the outline of the Eichel trade, my mock trade would be as follows:

Detroit Red Wings receive: Matthew Tkachuk (with an agreed-upon 8-year extension likely around $10M/year)

Calgary Flames receive: Tyler Bertuzzi, Albert Johansson, Filip Zadina, 2024 1st (unprotected)

Before you get nervous about the sky-high cost, let me explain why I believe that the cost is justified. Tkachuk is a very special player who plays a dominant offensive game while often playing the role of pest as perfected over the years by some of the league’s most hated players like Ryan Kesler or Brad Marchand. It’s one thing to have a player that can frustrate their opponents as few others can, but it’s another for that same player to be able to score at a point-per-game rate. This is the price you pay for excellent players in the NHL because everybody wants Tkachuk on their team, and nobody wants to play against him. 

Following the Eichel trade template, Bertuzzi slots in where Alex Tuch did as the good young player (Tuch was 25 at the time of the trade, and Bertuzzi is 26) who can slot into their new team’s top-six forward group immediately upon entry. Bertuzzi’s value is much higher than Tuch’s was at the time of the Eichel trade, but Bertuzzi will be going into next season as a pending unrestricted free agent (UFA), so that lowers his value a bit.

Tyler Bertuzzi Detroit Red Wings
Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit Red Wings (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the topic of a good prospect, I have the Red Wings moving on from Swedish defender Albert Johansson. The Flames’ prospect pool is filled with excellent young forwards, and they already have Dustin Wolf lined up as their goaltender of the future. What the Flames need above all else is a great puck-moving defenseman, possibly one who could line up next to defensive stalwart Chris Tanev. Johansson has played three full seasons in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and has shown steady improvement over the course of those seasons. He is still only 21 years old and looks primed and ready to play in North America next season. I could see the prospect included in the deal being either William Wallinder or Jonatan Berggren as well, as they are likely to have similar, though certainly higher, value in a trade.

Related: Red Wings Rebuild Role Models

Finally, I have the Red Wings parting with their first-round pick in the 2024 Draft as well as their 2018 sixth-overall pick in Zadina. I doubt that the Red Wings would be willing to part with their first-round selection in the upcoming 2023 draft, as it has already begun to develop a reputation as one of the best draft classes in recent memory. But I do think they will be willing to give up their pick the following year as they hope to be entering their window as a true contender. Zadina would be another player that can play for the Flames right away and who has the potential to grow into a great middle-six piece. He has shown flashes of the skills that he was drafted for, especially over the last two seasons, but the Red Wings could be willing to provide Zadina with a change of scenery in a trade that could work out for both teams in the future.

What Would Tkachuk’s New Contract Look Like?

Tkachuk is in line for a serious raise. He’s just beginning to hit his prime and was a dominant player for Calgary both on the power play and at even strength. He is likely to be one of the league’s best players for the next six or seven years, so an expensive eight-year deal will only continue to age better and better.

As a 6-foot-2 power forward who dominates opponents in all aspects of the game, Tkachuk will surely be looking for an eight-digit contract north of $10 million/year. However, a factor that will aid the team that trades for him is the reality of the flat salary cap as well as Gaudreau’s new contract that is worth $9.75 million/year. Though $10M/year is certainly pricey, the Red Wings could easily accommodate a deal of that size over the next few seasons. And once the salary cap starts rising again, the contract will be even easier to deal with in comparison. 

Fit in Detroit

Tkachuk would be an excellent addition for the Red Wings this offseason as their work in free agency clearly signaled that they are no longer a rebuilding team but one that hopes to seriously contend for the playoffs. If they landed Tkachuk, Detroit would be a lock to make the playoffs next season and could even do some serious damage once they make it there.

Related: Detroit Red Wings’ 2022 Draft Class Recap 

For those still on the fence, just imagine a first line of Tkachuk, Larkin, and Raymond. That sounds like a pretty sweet situation to land in for Tkachuk and would constitute a huge leap ahead for the Yzerplan. 

What are your thoughts on the Red Wings possibly trading for Matthew Tkachuk? What would your mock trade consist of? What is your dream line for Tkachuk to play on in Detroit? Sound off in the comment section below!

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