Based on all reports we’ve heard from various insiders/media members, Matthew Tkachuk’s days with the Calgary Flames are numbered, as he told the team he would not be re-signing long-term. This is a frustrating spot for the Flames and Brad Treliving to be in, as they have already lost cornerstone Johnny Gaudreau last week.
Now, the Flames are in a position where they will lose both of their 100+ point players a year after the team experienced great regular season success and won just their second playoff series since 2005. The Flames will have to try their best to fix this situation and get the best return possible for Tkachuk, but acquiring teams will no doubt want to get an idea that Tkachuk is open to re-sign with them before trading quality assets for him.
Tkachuk’s arbitration hearing has been scheduled for August 11, the very last day of the arbitration period, so the Flames will need to complete a deal before then or Tkachuk could take a one-year award from the arbitrator and head to free agency next offseason.
It is an incredibly difficult situation for GM Brad Treliving, who has to not only trade Tkachuk for the best package he can find, but ultimately decide the course this franchise is going to take. Are the Flames going to target strictly futures? Only prospects? Only first-round picks? Do they want to acquire a Tkachuk replacement? No one really knows, but if I were to take a guess, they are probably looking to stay competitive and try and make the playoffs by any means.
Taking that into consideration, I don’t think they are going to trade Matthew Tkachuk for three or four magic bean pieces. Instead, they will want to receive a package that has at least one or two players in it, so they can market around the player(s) they acquire and don’t come out of the trade with just a bunch of futures. Players of the stature of Tkachuk don’t get moved often, but looking back to a time as recent as last year, the Jack Eichel saga is probably a decent idea of what a package would look like.
Last year, the Buffalo Sabres held onto Jack Eichel for what seemed like forever, before finally dealing him to the Vegas Golden Knights along with a 2023 third-round pick in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first-, and a 2023 second-round pick.
Essentially, the trade included a young NHL forward, an A-rated NHL prospect, and a first-round pick, while moving up from the third round to the second round in the 2023 NHL Draft. Eichel has a ton of reputation around the NHL, being the player drafted right behind Connor McDavid and coming off of two straight seasons where he was above a point-per-game.
Eichel plays the most important position, centre, which would boost his value compared to Tkachuk, but he was also going into what NHL teams viewed as a risky surgery and was destined to be out for most of the 2021–22 season. Tkachuk is a year younger than Eichel, plus he isn’t currently signed to a contract, so a team can sign him to whatever contract they see fit, likely an eight-year deal.
What could the Tkachuk return look like?
Based on the returns other big names such as Ryan O’Reilly, Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall, Mark Stone netted in their circumstances—coupled with the Eichel return and what we can speculate on what the Flames are looking for—I would say the final package for Tkachuk would consist of the following:
- Under 25-year-old NHL roster player that plays top-six minutes
- A-grade prospect/above-average under 21-year-old player
- B- to C+ prospect
- First-round draft pick
- Second-round draft pick
In a tight cap world, the Flames could also take on bad contracts in exchange for the acquiring team adding another asset or improving one of the assets already in the trade.
Using this criteria, let’s dive into the various teams that could make that trade work, or have been connected to Tkachuk in some capacity. We can essentially eliminate all of the Canadian teams except Ottawa, on the off chance that Tkachuk may want to play with his brother, but other than that, it sounds like he wants to go play in the US.
We can also reasonably eliminate teams like Tampa Bay, Colorado, Philadelphia, Washington, Carolina because they simply do not have the cap space, and rebuilding teams like Arizona, San Jose, Chicago. Below are the teams I believe make the most sense for Tkachuk, and have roughly the package that the Flames will be looking for.
St. Louis Blues
Let’s start with Tkachuk’s hometown team, the St. Louis Blues, who have been engulfed in Tkachuk trade rumours for years because of the connection he already has with the city. Tkachuk and the Blues make a lot of sense, as he would definitely commit on a long-term deal, and may even take a pay cut to ensure he gets a deal done with the Flames.
Acquiring Tkachuk would be a little for complicated for the Blues however, as they only have $625K left in cap space and still need to sign re-sign restricted free agent (RFA) Klim Kostin, so any deal for Tkachuk would have to be money in/money out. Potential names that could be shipped out in a Tkachuk deal to make cap room include Vladimir Tarasenko, Niko Mikkola, and Marco Scandella.
Mikkola just signed a one-year contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $1.9M, and Scandella has two years left on a deal that carries an AAV of $3.275M. With St. Louis re-signing Nick Leddy, their left side defence features Leddy, Torey Krug, Scandella, Mikkola, and prospect Scott Perunovich, so there is an extra body or two they could ship out to save cap and leave room for Perunovich to play some games.
Tarasenko has one year left at a cap hit of $7.5M before he is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) and can test the free agent market. The stopping point for including Tarasenko in a deal is the no-trade clause in his contract, so he would have to agree to a destination.
Tarasenko made a trade request last offseason, but was never traded and put up a career-high 34 goals and 82 points in 75 games. It sounds like Tarasenko’s trade request hasn’t gone away and would be open to a move, so maybe there’s a fit with Calgary, who could keep him or even flip him to a team like the Predators or Devils for future assets.
The Flames would likely target Jordan Kyrou at a centrepiece of a Tkachuk return, who is a 24-year-old right winger who is coming off a year where he had 75 points in 74 games (1.01 P/GP). Kyrou has one more season at a contract of $2.8M before he becomes an RFA, and the Flames would have him under team control for at least three more seasons.
Looking at the graphic below (courtesy of HockeyViz.com), one can see that Kyrou is a good volume shooter who is able to get shots off in the middle of the ice, which is crucial. While his defensive game is still lacking, it has improved over the course of his career, and it doesn’t hurt that Kyrou is one of the fastest players in the league. For a team like Calgary, he would bring a welcome addition in speed for a roster that lacks in that category—especially after the departure of Gaudreau.
My proposed package from the Blues is Jordan Kyrou, Klim Kostin, Zachary Bolduc, a2023 first-round pick, and a 2024 second-round pick. The Flames also take on the final two years of Marco Scandella and his contract.
Kyrou is obviously the big name here, while Klim Kostin is a 23-year-old big body who is a 2017 first-round selection and hasn’t worked with St. Louis yet, setting a career-high of just nine points in 40 games last year. However, he is still young and could thrive in a Darryl Sutter system. Zachary Bolduc is a centre who was drafted 17th overall in last year’s draft and had a whopping 55 goals and 99 points in 65 games in the QMJHL this past year.
With this deal, the Flames get a 24-year-old right wing who just scored above a point-per-game in the NHL last year, an A-level prospect in Bolduc, a project in Kostin, and two draft picks, while taking on the contract of Scandella.
Note: The Blues would have to trade Vladimir Tarasenko in another deal to free up cap space, or they can restructure this deal if Tarasenko waives his no trade clause to go to the Flames.
The Ottawa Senators are a potential landing spot for Tkachuk, as his brother Brady is the captain and is signed long-term. The Tkachuk family is very close, and both Tkachuk brothers have mentioned their desire to play with each other in the NHL at some point. With the great offseason the Senators have had so far, (acquiring Alex DeBrincat, Claude Giroux, and Cam Talbot and doing even more), could they make another move for Tkachuk and cement their top-six for years to come?
The Senators are flushed with young assets and roster players that the Flames could have interest in, plus the cap space available right now to fit Tkachuk in on a long-term deal. The Senators could also send Nikita Zaitsev and the two years remaining on his $4.5M AAV contract to get even more room, but they would have to sweeten the pot.
Some players on interest to the Flames would likely be A+ grade defensive prospect Jake Sanderson, who was drafted fifth overall in 2020, and even played his minor hockey in Calgary. As the Flames look to boost their centre depth, I could see them targeting Shane Pinto, who dealt with injuries and only played five games last year, but still projects as a solid middle-six centreman.
I also think Drake Batherson is a player the Flames would target, but they should avoid him—and Alex Formenton, too—as their names have not been cleared in the Hockey Canada sexual assault case. If Batherson’s name is cleared, I would like to see the Flames restructure the deal below around him, as he is 24 years old and extended for another five years at $4.975M AAV.
My proposed offer from the Senators is Matthew Tkachuk and Juuso Valimaki to the Ottawa Senators for Jake Sanderson, Shane Pinto, Ridly Greig, a 2023 first-round pick, and a 2024 second-round pick. The Flames would also take on the contract of Nikita Zaitsev, which is why the 2024 second is included in this deal as well.
This offer sees the Flames send Tkachuk to play with his brother while giving Valimaki a fresh start, as the Senators were interested in him as a return for Mark Stone at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline. The Flames would receive an A+ prospect in 20-year-old Sanderson, a good gamble in taking on 21-year-old Pinto, a B+ prospect in 19-year-old Greig—who had 63 points in 39 games as the captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL—and finally two draft picks.
The Flames would also acquire Zaitsev and his contract, who they could choose to buyout or let play on the third pairing with Nikita Zadorov. Nikita Zadorov and Nikita Zaitsev pairing, anyone?
Detroit Red Wings
The Detroit Red Wings could also be a player for Tkachuk, as they have young assets and the cap space to fit Tkachuk in now. Steve Yzerman is always lurking in the weeds, and could look to Tkachuk as a long-term fit next to Dylan Larkin and Lucas Raymond.
The Flames could target Jakub Vrana, who is coming off an injury-riddled past, but has managed to put up a good career to date, making significant offensive contributions to his team at the net front, while the defensive end remains something to work on. Vrana has two years remaining on a contract with an AAV of $5.25M.
Another player the Flames could target is Filip Zadina, who has been in trade rumours this past season as he could use a change of scenery, only managing 24 points in 74 games in 2021–22. Looking at the graphic below, Zadina did have a good offensive season and got lots of chances at the net front and in the middle of the ice, but the point totals haven’t translated yet. Zadina is an RFA this offseason and needs a new deal.
My trade offer for the Red Wings is the Flames trading Matthew Tkachuk for Jakub Vrana, Simon Edvinsson, Filip Zadina, and a 2023 second-round pick.
The Flames got a younger forward in Vrana who is a bit of a risk due to his injury history and only under team control for two more seasons, and a project forward in Filip Zadina who was the 2018 sixth overall pick—and he could shine in the right situation.
Because both of those assets aren’t for sure things, I’ve also included A+ prospect Simon Edvinsson, who was drafted sixth overall in last year’s draft and projects as a solid top-four defenceman for years to come. Edvinsson is 6’6″ already and filling in his weight, and has a massive reach that doesn’t compare to anyone else.
I didn’t include a first-round pick in this deal because of the potential for the three players the Flames will receive, but this offer is a little risky for the Flames with Vrana’s injury history and Zadina not hitting his potential at all yet.
New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils make the most sense in my eyes, as they have the need for a winger to play alongside Jack Hughes, and they have a plethora of prospects and young players that would be appealing for the Flames.
I really like a lot of the pieces that the Devils have—there are too many too name—but here are a few I would love the Flames to target. If the Flames can land Jesper Bratt, who just finished a career-high season with 73 points in 76 games (0.96 P/GP) and is currently an RFA (heading to arbitration on August 3), that would be an excellent acquisition.
So a deal including Bratt would have to be completed earlier than Tkachuk’s arbitration date, but that’s not a bad thing for either party. Looking at the graphic below, Bratt had a phenomenal 2021–22 season, where he got chances all around the net and at the net front. His defensive game was very good in his two prior years before being a tad below-average last year, so we could expect it to average out and be pretty good.
Other prospects that interest me are Dawson Mercer, a 2020 first-round pick who managed 42 points in his rookie year last year, or Alexander Holtz, who was drafted seventh overall in 2020 and had 51 points in 52 AHL games and has a lethal shot. The Devils recent draft picks of Luke Hughes or Simon Nemec could also interest the Flames if they are looking for a blue chip prospect.
I also like the idea of the Flames looking into Yegor Sharangovich, who is a 24-year-old able to play all three forward positions who had 46 points last year, and has one more season at a cap hit of $2M before he is an RFA next offseason. Like I mentioned previously, New Jersey has so many young assets that I would be here for weeks explaining everyone, which is why they make the most sense to me for a Tkachuk trade.
The deal I put together is the Flames sending Matthew Tkachuk to the Devils for Jesper Bratt, Yegor Sharangovich, Kevin Bahl, a 2023 first-round pick, and a 2024 second round pick.
In this deal, the Flames would get a top-six forward replacement in the 23-year-old Bratt who they would need to sign to a contract, 24-year-old Sharangovich who is a very good middle-six forward, prospect Kevin Bahl, who is a 22-year-old 6’6″ defenceman, and two draft picks. The Devils could also send Tomas Tatar or Andreas Johnsson back to the Flames to give them flexible cap room, but they can fit Tkachuk in seamlessly if they send Bratt back to the Flames.
Let the bidding war for Tkachuk begin
A Matthew Tkachuk trade could take so many different shapes and sizes and no one knows what the actual deal will look like, but using my best intuition, I came up with these four teams and what a package could look like.
St. Louis and New Jersey could offer the best replacement forwards in Jordan Kyrou or Jesper Bratt, respectively, while Ottawa and Detroit both have packages that offer a very good defensive prospect that the Flames can build their blueline around.
I love New Jersey’s prospect pool and young talent and I believe that destination makes the most sense because of their need for a long-term fit with Jack Hughes and ample prospect pool.
Tkachuk’s arbitration will happen on August 11, so we should know the answer by then, and that should be a pretty eventful deal that will rock the hockey world.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire