It’s been very slow on the Calgary Flames front over the past month and a half. After failing to to make the playoffs, the Flames have been on the sidelines watching as the NHL playoffs unfold while waiting to get their offseason started with the expansion draft on July 17th.
However that all changed on Monday when reports came out that Matthew Tkachuk may want out of Calgary, preferring to play for his hometown St. Louis Blues. An elite Calgary Flames left winger reportedly wants out of Calgary to go play at home. When have we heard this story before? Better yet, when have any of these rumours actually turned into reality?
We all know the Flames fell well short of expectations last year as a team and that Tkachuk himself had a disappointing season. He would be the first one to tell you that. Do we really believe that he suddenly wants out of Calgary though after only being here for just five seasons?
Regardless, trading Tkachuk would not be a smart move from the Calgary Flames. It’s no secret this team lacks high-end talent up front, so trading arguably your most well-rounded and talented forward isn’t exactly a good way to fix those issues. In almost any realistic trade the Flames could make with Tkachuk, the team would get worse. It really just doesn’t make sense unless you get a massive offer that you can’t refuse.
Let’s take a look at where these rumours came from, if they should be believed, and break down why trading Tkachuk would be a bad idea, full stop.
The Tkachuk trade rumours
The rumours first started a couple weeks ago when the voice of the St. Louis Blues Chris Kerber went on air and brought up the idea of a reunion for Tkachuk in St. Louis if things weren’t working in Calgary. Here’s the clip.
Now it’s clear that this is nothing more than pure speculation from Kerber, essentially just stating that the Blues would be interesting in bringing Tkachuk home if he were available. News flash, all 31 teams in the league would be interested if a player like Tkachuk was available, so this isn’t exactly concrete evidence of a potential trade.
However, these rumours took a big step forward on Monday as Sportsnet Analyst and former Flame Shane O’Brien went on the Steve Kouleas Power Play podcast and suggested that he’s heard a rumour that Tkachuk wants out of Calgary, preferring to go home to St. Louis. He went even further and suggested he thinks there could be a swap in place to send 29-year-old sniper Vladimir Tarasenko to the Flames for Tkachuk. Here is the clip.
This created a firestorm on Twitter as expected, as Flames fans refuted the claims while opposing teams fans posted terrible trade offers for Tkachuk. I’ve posted some of my favourites below if anyone needs a good laugh.
Then there was an article from thehockeywriters.com titled “Blues Have Pieces to Make a Tkachuk Trade Work.” They followed up that title with this sentence “The Blues simply cannot offer the Flames a premier prospect or a top draft pick, as they have neither.” They then proceeded to suggest Colton Parayko and Zach Sanford (who has a career-high of 30 points) could be a fair offer. Moving on.
When exactly did Shane O’Brien become a Sportsnet analyst and trusted source for rumours? I think it’s a pretty safe rule in the NHL rumour world that until one of the trusted sources like Elliot Friedman, Pierre Lebrun, Darren Dreger, or the semi-retired Bob McKenzie tweets about a rumour, then you probably shouldn’t believe said rumour.
To me this appears as a situation where O’Brien is simply trying to stir the pot and take advantage of a star player coming off a down year for a struggling team in a big hockey market. He doesn’t list any actual sources to his claim and essentially just states that he thinks Tkachuk wants to play in St. Louis and then proceeds to provide no real evidence of that claim.
Assessing the trade
There’s also the fact that acquiring Tarasenko makes little to no sense for the Flames. If the team gets to a point where they feel they need to move Tkachuk, it would happen because they are undergoing a rebuild most likely. Trading out a 23-year-old top line winger for a soon to be 30-year-old winger who has played just 34 games over the past two seasons makes zero sense on any level.
To me, O’Briens claim is no more concrete than Kerber’s. Both are just pure speculation at this point with no real sources or evidence to back them up. Until one of the trusted insiders, Brad Treliving, Tkachuk’s agent, or Tkachuk himself state he wants out of Calgary, there is no reason to believe he does.
To further that point, Ryan Pinder reported yesterday that the rumours had no truth behind them after he checked with some people in the organization.
Regardless, as crazy as it is that we even have to talk about this, trading Tkachuk would not be a good idea for the Flames. Unless he essentially forces his way out, the Flames should not be looking to move Tkachuk. Let’s take a look at why. All numbers are courtesy of Evolving-Hockey.com.
Tkachuk is an elite player for Calgary
This won’t come as a surprise to any Flames fan, but Tkachuk is very good. Despite having a rough season in 2021, he has fully established himself as one of the best players in the league at his position at just 23 years old. Looking through Twitter the past couple days it’s clear that people outside of Calgary really don’t understand just how good Tkachuk has been thus far in his career. Recency bias will make clear waters murky.
It’s not a stretch at all to say that Tkachuk has been one of, if not the best forward on the Flames since arriving on the scene in 2017. At both ends of the ice Tkachuk has produced elite results throughout his career. His numbers truly speak for themselves.
Here are his numbers in some major categories and his rank among Flames forwards with at least 2000 5v5 TOI (essentially the core) with the team since Tkachuk joined the Flames in 2016–17.
|Stat||Matthew Tkachuk||Rank among current Flames forwards|
As I said, the numbers speak for themselves. Tkachuk has been one of the team’s best forwards since making his NHL debut in 2016–17. He’s shown how dominate he can be at even strength by leading the Flames since his debut in 2016 in both CF% and CF/60 relative. Only Andrew Mangiapane and/or Johnny Gaudreau rank ahead of him in the other metrics.
Tkachuk led all Flames forwards with at least 500 minutes at 5v5 for CF% in his first three seasons in the league and finished second behind Mangiapane during the last two seasons. It’s fair to say that Tkachuk has been the Flames’ best possession forward since joining the team.
His CF% of 55.6 over the past five seasons ranks ninth league wide among all wingers with at least 2000 minutes at 5v5 during that time frame. If we look at only wingers who have played all five seasons since 2016–17, he moves up to sixth with only Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Brendan Gallagher, Teuvo Teravainen, and Nino Neiderreiter ahead of him.
Courtesty of evolvinghockey.com, Tkachuk ranks 24th league wide among all forwards for goals above replacement since the 2016–17 season. That places him ahead of Jack Eichel, Mikko Rantanen, and John Tavares. If we look at only wingers he again ranks better, bumping up to 11th.
Tkachuk has been putting up elite underlying numbers for his entire career, despite playing on some very average Flames teams. There’s a solid argument he’s the team’s best and most important even strength forward given his results so far as a Flame. He’s also consistently ranked among the league’s very best wingers every season in terms of his underlying results and numbers.
His offensive production isn’t slacking far behind either, as he has also been one of the team’s best point producers both at even strength and in all situations. It seems like people forget he led the Flames in scoring during the 2019–20 season. Let’s take a look at his overall point production for the team since entering the league in 2016–17.
|Stat||Matthew Tkachuk||Rank among current Flames forwards|
Shocker, Tkachuk is also very good at generating offense. He ranks top-three on the Flames in every category behind only the team’s big two of Gaudreau and/or Monahan. His 0.8 points per game is actually better than Monahan’s as he has two less points in five less games since the 2016–17 season. His 0.8 points per game since 2016–17 ranks third on the Flames behind only Gaudreau and Elias Lindholm.
He comes in sitting in second for both assists and even strength assists since 2016–17. His 59 primary assists also rank second on the team in that time frame. He’s clearly the team’s second best playmaker behind only Gaudreau.
League-wide his production has also been elite. His 278 points rank sixth among left wingers since entering the league behind only Johnathan Huberdeau, teammate Gaudreau, Alexander Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, and Marchand. Overall, his 278 points rank 41st among all forwards since 2016–17.
Tkachuk has put up both elite underlying numbers and raw point totals since his rookie season. His numbers suggest he is without a doubt one of the very best wingers in the entire NHL, and arguably the best forward the Flames have.
Trading Tkachuk makes the Flames worse
It’s well known across the NHL that when you make a trade and give up the best player in the deal, you’re losing the trade. Sure there have been some outliers from time to time, but the rule generally stands true.
If the Flames do trade Tkachuk at some point, they will almost certainly be on the losing end of whatever deal they make. Unless he is moved in a bigger deal for an even better player like Eichel, trading Tkachuk really just makes no sense for the Flames in any way. Even moving him for Eichel is a risky move considering the uncertainty surrounding Gaudreau’s future in Calgary.
Tkachuk has firmly established himself as one of the best wingers in the NHL, and at just 23 years old he is bound to get even better as he enters his prime. Moving a player with Tkachuk’s ability and ceiling when he is just getting started seems like a very bad idea if you’re the Flames. He is a player you build a team around, not someone you move out for assets.
The rumours are baseless and should hold no weight for Calgary.