For Calgary Flames fans who can hardly contain their desire for Matthew Tkachuk to sign a long-term deal in Calgary and get a letter upgrade on his chest, you’ll have to wait a while.
But the winger did suggest on Hockey Night in Canada‘s After Hours that his fondness for Calgary remains as strong as it was when he signed a three-year bridge deal that expires after this season.
“I absolutely love it here. It’s home for me, my second home since … I don’t know, I don’t even know what year it is now, but I’ve been here forever and have basically grown up here,” Tkachuk told Scott Oake on Saturday after the Calgary Flames lost 4-2 to the Winnipeg Jets. “I came here as an 18-year-old kid. I’ve met so many unbelievable people and been involved with so many people, not hockey related, around the community. Love the lifestyle here and have been very, very, very happy.”
From an external perspective, many have speculated about that level of happiness. Last season involved some on-ice drama and reports surfaced that there was some frustration around Tkachuk. Only the players and management know whether Tkachuk was the frustrated one if it was the other way around. But the chatter began following the infamous puck flip in Toronto.
At the final buzzer of a Flames loss to the Maple Leafs, defenceman Jake Muzzin flipped the puck at Tkachuk, who was on his knees in the corner. Tkachuk was outraged, and stormed off the ice. His teammates didn’t share his emotions, whether it was because they didn’t see what happened or didn’t think much of it.
Star winger enjoying sixth season with the team that drafted him
Granted, last year was an especially challenging one – even for athletes making great money and playing a game they love as a vocation.
This year, Tkachuk has repeatedly called the rumours of his potential to be traded for Jack Eichel “B.S.” and did so again on After Hours.
He also told Oake this year has been his favourite so far, in spite of the NHL trade chatter.
“This year has been probably the happiest I’ve been here, with the team and the guys and (things being) back to normal,” Tkachuk said.
“I’ve got a smile on my face every single day I come to the rink. That’s when you know how special a place this is. And everyone that comes and visits me says the same thing. They know how happy I am.”
That bodes well for his desire to sign a new contract, but Tkachuk is in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations. He must be qualified at $9 million and can walk into unrestricted free agency after next season. With 10 goals and 19 points in 21 games this year, Tkachuk is on pace for a career year.
But he’s not talking contract. And neither, he says, are the Calgary Flames.
No contract talk between Calgary Flames and Tkachuk camp
“I haven’t been actually asked about that contract. We haven’t talked about it at all,” Tkachuk said.
“I think my contract year a couple of seasons ago, we didn’t talk. We decided not to talk until after the season because, to me, I just want to focus on the team.
“We’ve got something good going right now and I don’t want anything to get in the way of that. I just want to play and we can deal with that stuff at the end of the season.”
Drafted sixth overall by the Calgary Flames in 2016, the 23-year-old Tkachuk is in his sixth NHL season. It’s hard to believe the veteran is only turning 24 on Dec. 11. With his best hockey ahead of him, the Flames will undoubtedly do their best to sign him long-term this summer as the Ottawa Senators did with Tkachuk’s younger brother, Brady, this year.
Brady Tkachuk was named Sens captain shortly after signing his new deal. Matthew could find himself in a similar situation with the Flames going with four alternate captains this year after losing Mark Giordano to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft.