Calgary Flames winger Matthew Tkachuk’s name has been whispered in NHL trade rumours for the better part of a year.
He was part of the conversation between the Flames and Buffalo Sabres in the Jack Eichel sweepstakes back in November.
National Hockey Now confirmed with an NHL executive source this week that the New Jersey Devils made a play for Tkachuk at the draft, using the second overall pick, a roster player and prospect as bait.
Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving rejected that deal, no doubt still hoping to sign both Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau before things went off the rails following Gaudreau’s surprise signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
So with Thursday’s news that Tkachuk’s arbitration date is set for August 11, we know the latest when we can expect the 24-year-old winger to be dealt.
Now it’s a matter of where.
Treliving is a somewhat handcuffed. To maximize a return, the Flames GM has to work with both the player and the team courting his services to ensure Tkachuk will agree to a new contract.
If he gets to arbitration, he’ll receive a one-year deal worth no less than $9 million and be eligible to hit unrestricted free agency next July.
But forget the list you may have seen circulating on the internet. Many teams will be interested in convincing Tkachuk they’re the best partner.
New Jersey Devils
We all know family is important to the Tkachuks. Matthew’s dad, Keith Tkachuk and Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald are cousins. That doesn’t mean much, and Matthew has no other connection to Jersey, but the team has cap room and enough trade pieces to make a potential deal work.
Using the Eichel deal as a template, the Calgary Flames could get a young roster player and prospect as well as a first-round draft pick next year.
The Devils have some good young roster players. They likely wouldn’t want to part with Nico Hischier but Jesper Bratt had a breakout year and is headed for arbitration himself. Prospects on entry level deals include Dawson Mercer, Alexander Holtz, Chase Stillman and Nolan Foote, to name a few.
There would be some cap considerations for the Devils to work with but they’re a viable partner.
St. Louis Blues
The hometown hopefuls would likely welcome their prodigal son (who wasn’t actually born there but lives there in the offseason and considers it his home) with open arms.
But a lot of dominoes would need to fall for them to make the money work, which means moving — either to the Flames or another team — more than just a young roster player like Jordan Kyrou.
Vladimir Tarasenko and Pavel Buchnevich might be the easiest to either include in a package or ship out to add other assets and clear some cap space. Although just 27, it’s tough to imagine Buchnevich as the roster centrepiece in a deal.
Jake Neighbours is a great prospect the Flames may be able to pry away. But the Blues aren’t going to give up more than one or two young pieces unless there are enough teams in the mix to create a bit of a bidding war.
This may be moot if Tkachuk is unwilling to take a shot at Buffalo, but from a cap and prospect perspective, they’d be able to come up with a competitive offer and remain an up-and-coming group.
Forwards Jack Quinn and JJ Peterka, defenceman Owen Power and goalie Devon Levi are top talents on the prospect front. Maybe they’d consider flipping Peyton Krebs, who they scooped from the Vegas Golden Knights.
A long shot, but worth a mention.
If there’s a place anywhere near as St. Louis-y as St. Louis, it’s probably Nashville. It might be one of Tkachuk’s favourite spots but would a package both clear enough cap space for the Preds and satisfy Treliving’s needs?
There aren’t many forwards the Preds would want to move that fit the Flames profile, assuming Tanner Jeannot is non-negotiable. But they’ve got prospects like Philip Tomasino and Zachary L’Heureux on the radar. Defenceman Dante Fabbro (24) is a good young player who hits restricted free agency next year.
Some intriguing pieces to browse.
Detroit Red Wings
Steve Yzerman has been tinkering and looking to become the next Joe Sakic. Maybe Detroit is a little too Buffalo for Tkachuk, but if he’s looking for a team on the rise, the Wings could be it.
They have plenty of youth and picks to offer, and RFA Filip Zadina is a player who could benefit from a change of scenery.
Again, not necessarily a frontrunner but a team that could be a match if the Flames go heavy on the picks and prospects as opposed to roster players.
Not sure big brother would actually want to be second fiddle to little brother Brady, who captains the Sens, but it’s an intriguing possibility.
There’s no doubt Pierre Dorion has been willing to make big changes, bringing in a big scorer in Alex DeBrincat, and a veteran in Claude Giroux. There is lots of cap room available and some talented young players just starting to come into their own.
Could the Flames pry Drake Batherson away, or get the Sens to flip DeBrincat now that another Tkachuk is available?
New York Islanders
Lou Lamoriello was reportedly interested in Gaudreau before he landed in Columbus and the Isles are seeking goal-scorers. The problem with the Isles is the prospect pool is lacking depth and giving up someone like Aatu Raty would be all but non-negotiable in a deal for someone like Tkachuk.
Anthony Beauvillier and Oliver Wahlstrom are the young roster players most other teams would covet.
New York Rangers
The other team from the Big Apple is already a contender for the Stanley Cup if you believe what unfolded in the Eastern Conference this spring. It might be an easy sell for Tkachuk if the return is right for the Calgary Flames.
Filip Chytil had a strong finish and is still just 22. The Flames may prefer Alexis Lafreniere but it’s unlikely the Rangers are unlikely to give up on a top pick not named Kaapo Kakko. On the back end, someone like K’Andre Miller could be of interest.
Haven’t seen anything linking the Calgary Flames and Wild together but in the interest of geography and clubs with a Blue Jackets vibe, maybe Minnesota should be considered a Wild card.
If there’s any uncertainty about Kirill Kaprizov’s political challenges, the Wild have a strong group of young roster players to pore over.
Matthew Boldy is a pretty good bet to turn into a star but swapping him for Tkachuk might be more in alignment with Cup window with an aging defence and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes.