Senators Should Consider Offer Sheeting Matthew Tkachuk

It’s no secret that Ottawa Senators GM Pierre Dorion is on the hunt for a top-six forward. In his year-end comments he said as much. He added that he would be looking to captain Brady Tkachuk and his top defenceman, Thomas Chabot, for help in locating and bringing free agents to Ottawa. What if that top-six player was family? Tkachuk has been making social media waves with his vocal support for his brother, Matthew, as the Calgary Flames continue their push in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But what if there was an ulterior motive? Instead of simply rooting for his brother, what if Brady was working to try and convince him to head to Ottawa?

How Would an Offer Sheet to Tkachuk Work?

The Senators’ season ended outside the playoff window this year, but realistically they should be advancing in the standings next season. The team improved down the stretch and with key players finding their game, they should get off to a better start next time around. That being the case, Dorion will be looking to add to the core as they try to round the corner to being competitors. While there has been lots of discussions online about Kevin Fiala and Claude Giroux, there may be a more interesting (or at least entertaining) route to take: submitting an offer sheet to Matthew Tkachuk. 

Calgary is approaching a salary-cap crunch after this season as key players like Johnny Gaudreau, Andrew Mangiapane, and the aforementioned Tkachuk all need to be re-signed and are rightfully due pay raises. Sure, the cap hit from the Troy Brouwer buyout disappears after this season, but the team has a number of players on deals that even when replaced with entry-level contracts don’t save the team much cap space. The Senators, on the other hand, hold close to $10 million right now. There are important signings to be done, like Josh Norris, but they also have indicated that they are not resigning some players, which will free up more space.

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

If the team were to submit an offer sheet to Tkachuk in the realm of $8-9 million, the Flames will be forced into a bind with their signings. It will also upset their plans to keep their core together if they match the offer. The compensation that would go to them would be two 1st round picks, a 2nd round pick, and a 3rd round pick. Ottawa does have some extra picks, so it doesn’t completely strip them of their drafting ability. Of course, this all rests on Tkachuk signing it which is never a certainty, but it certainly helps to have his younger brother in his ear, whispering about what it would be like to be the real-life “Bash Brothers.”

So, assuming the hypothetical offer sheet is signed how will it play out?

Why the Senators Should Send an Offer Sheet to Tkachuk

Tim Stützle has been the subject of a lot of online discourse over the past month or two. Some feel he plays too “soft” while others believe that he fully embellishes. The fun part about this roster transaction is that those notions are now completely irrelevant. If the team’s top-line center is flanked on both sides by a combined 420 pounds of the Tkachuk brothers, it’s unlikely that he’ll face much contact again. In all seriousness, having two big, physical, wingers is a blessing for a small, crafty center. With both brothers proving that they have a unique scoring touch to their game as well, it comes without sacrificing offensive drive. Line matches become immediately easier as the opposition’s shut-down line now has to contend with players who simply won’t be pushed around along with being legitimate scoring threats at the same time. 

Tim Stützle Ottawa Senators
Tim Stützle, Ottawa Senators (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

This opens up play even more for the second line with players like the aforementioned Norris and gives better opportunities to Drake Batherson and whomever ultimately takes over the other wing on the second line. On the power play, you have a single Tkachuk on each unit to play in front of the net constantly given their prowess at winning those critical battles. Having both of them on the same line creates a driving force to forecheck hard, win puck battles, and score all at the same time.

Under this presumptive acceptance of an offer in that dollar range, the Senators would need to offer compensation to the Flames in the form of draft picks. This year’s draft class is proving to be polarizing. While Shane Wright is the consensus number one pick, the remainder of the field is up for debate. Overall, it’s being viewed as a weak draft class. With two picks in the second round, they still get to draft at 39th overall, just slightly removed from the first round.

Related: Senators’ Offseason Projections: Players Not Returning

With potential game-changers like Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov available next year, it could be risky to give up that shot. But for a team on the rise looking to close the door on the rebuild and open the door for playoffs, an immediate impact, 100-point player is much more attractive than a chance to get a top-two pick. Barring an incredible collapse, the Senators shouldn’t wind up in the bottom three teams next year. With such a slim chance to get the top two picks, it makes sense to swing for the fences on an offer sheet for Tkachuk.

Why the Senators Shouldn’t Make an Offer to Matthew Tkachuk

While the idea of a bold first line is a tantalizing one, making this move would come with inherent risks and realistically would stall the building of the roster for the future. Making a big splash in free agency is always a calculated risk as teams are often paying more than a player’s actual value to capture them from the competition. With an offer sheet, the increased payday is met with the relinquishing of draft picks. If it doesn’t work as intended with the player, the cost goes well beyond the salary cap.

In the case of the elder Tkachuk, the biggest risk comes down to the salary cap. Over the next two years, the Senators have a myriad of players needing to be signed, with many requiring substantial raises over their current deals. If the team were to offer Matthew a deal that forces the Flames’ hand, it puts those other deals in jeopardy moving forward. There are pieces that should be shipped out, but that’s not an easy process. The stars need to align to keep the core together and add a piece of this value at the same time.

Arizona Coyotes Oliver Ekman-Larsson Calgary Flames Matthew Tkachuk
Calgary Flames left wing Matthew Tkachuk (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Supposing that the salary cap works out fine, the further issue is the loss of draft picks. Now, the Senators have a good number of them over the next two years, as there’s always the ability to trade up a few spots, but overall they would be drafting lower in the draft than a team on the rise would like. That issue is further compounded by a potential salary-cap crunch. Some of those picks would realistically need to be moved in trade packages to strip the team of their cap hit. Beleaguered goalie Matt Murray is one example. Buying his contract out is a non-starter, and few teams would straight-up trade for him given his injury history and play as of late. His contract becomes much more attractive to other teams if he is bundled with a pick or two.

The main reason why the Senators shouldn’t do it is simple: they don’t need to. They are on the rise. Of course, it hasn’t been without growing pains, rebuilds never are. But this is a team that has shown dedication to their core through contracts that most fans didn’t think the team would pay for. Their development pipeline has some question marks, but overall players are seeing year-over-year growth. While the drafting has been a bit of a weak spot, Dorion has made some quality trades to keep the main group rolling with players who fit their style.

It’s true that the team still needs a top-six forward, but it doesn’t need such an aggressive move. There are other players that are likely to be available in a much more straightforward way, players that don’t carry as much risk to get on board.

Ultimately, there’s a near-zero chance that the Senators submit an offer sheet to anybody, but after the Montreal Canadiens & Carolina Hurricanes offer sheet drama last offseason, it certainly is fun to think about.

Sign up for our regular 'Senators Newsletter' for all the latest.