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Flames Facing Forced Rebuild Amid Reports of Tkachuk Departure

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Calgary Flames Matthew Tkachuk

The exodus of star players from the Calgary Flames will put the franchise on a new trajectory.

We’re looking at a forced rebuild. And it likely won’t be a scorched Earth approach. But it is going to be challenging for the Flames to make additions significant enough to make up for the loss of two of the eight players to earn 100 points in the NHL last season.

And that loss is likely to occur in the same month.

Johnny Gaudreau left on the first day of free agency. A report from The Athletic today suggests linemate Matthew Tkachuk recently indicated to the Calgary Flames that he is no longer interested in signing a long-term deal this summer.

Considering the sting of losing Gaudreau for nothing a year after giving up captain Mark Giordano in the expansion draft with no return, the Flames will seek to maximize value in a deal for Tkachuk.

But knowing the pinch Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving is in now, the offers won’t be as fruitful as you may expect.

For salary-cap reasons, a deal would likely have to include a roster player in addition to picks and/or prospects. The Flames ownership’s past approach to roster change suggests a preference to stay competitive.

Losing two players the calibre of Gaudreau and Tkachuk all but make the Flames untouchable on the free agent market if winning is important to a player.

UFA desire to join Flames has likely faded

Waiting for Nazem Kadri to add to the Calgary offence? Any desire to join the Flames has likely passed as quickly as Gaudreau and Tkachuk’s desire to stay since their promising end-of-season availabilities.

As a result, the Flames could be forced into a more significant rebuild — an area they’ve avoided for the entire post-lockout era.

Veteran forwards Mikael Backlund and Tyler Toffoli may be shopped ahead of the season. Defenceman Chris Tanev and Vezina runner-up Jacob Markstrom may also be considerations before the NHL trade deadline. Even the Flames’ big free agent acquisition from a year ago, Blake Coleman, could be an asset worth assessing on the trade market.

Sean Monahan and Milan Lucic have been on the block for months for salary cap purposes. That urgency has passed but neither are core pieces at this point.

The list of untouchables could be small. Restricted free agents Andrew Mangiapane and Oliver Kylington, blueliners Rasmus Andersson and Noah Hanifin, and Selke finalist Elias Lindholm. They may be the core that allows the Flames to get back on a path to contention.

But with one of the lower-rated prospect pools in the NHL, it could take a while without some creative additions.

And that starts with the return in any Tkachuk deal.

No pressure.

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