Winners and Losers of Blockbuster Matthew Tkachuk Trade

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured Columnist IIIJuly 23, 2022

Winners and Losers of Blockbuster Matthew Tkachuk Trade

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    Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    Just when you thought it was safe to turn off your hockey alerts, this happens.

    The Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers got together to pull off a good old-fashioned blockbuster trade on Friday night that's set the NHL buzzing into a mid-summer weekend.

    Tkachuk's days in southern Alberta had seemed numbered since teammate Johnny Gaudreau left as a free agent, and The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford and Hailey Salvian reported this week that Tkachuk told the Flames he had no interest in staying with the organization past next season, when he'd become a free agent.

    Given that ominous deadline, Flames general manager Brad Treliving got to work on a suitable Plan B that would return assets for a departing star and simultaneously keep his team watchable for the imminent 2022-23 season.

    The B/R hockey team answered the late-night call and got together to discuss the trade in order to compile a definitive set of winners and losers. Scroll through to see what we came up with and feel free to drop a thought or two of your own in the comments.

Winner: Brad Treliving

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    Say what you like about Brad Treliving.

    But don't say he's not resilient.

    The Calgary GM had about as awful a week as an NHL executive could have in losing Gaudreau and hearing that Tkachuk had no intention of making Alberta a long-term home, but he still managed to turn it into something that'll feel like a positive come October.

    Not only did he rid the locker room of a guy who no longer wanted to be there, he managed to offload him and get two worthwhile pieces for 2022-23—a 115-point scorer and a first-pairing defenseman—in the forms of Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, not to mention a serviceable prospect (Cole Schwindt) and a first-round pick in the 2025 draft.

    The presence of Huberdeau and Weegar will help the Flames maintain relevance in the Pacific Division through next season, and if it appears they may follow Tkachuk's lead and want to skip town when the final year on their existing deals run out, he can flip them at the trade deadline for more future assets.

    It wasn't an ideal scenario by anyone's measure, but kudos to Treliving for making the best of it.

Loser: Asset Management

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    When it comes to the Panthers, though, it's not quite so simple.

    The top-line takeaway with Tkachuk is that Florida acquired a prolific 24-year-old and immediately signed him to an eight-year deal that'll make him a franchise centerpiece.

    GM Bill Zito is nothing if not all-in.

    But the profit gained for the expense paid seems a trifle lopsided.

    Giving away Huberdeau, Weegar and the others for eight years of Tkachuk is one thing, but when you consider the outlay Zito made at last March's trade deadline for impending UFAs Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot—neither of whom re-signed at season's end—it starts to appear a little one-sided in the wrong direction.

    Getting those two for the final few weeks of the regular season and an 11-game playoff run already cost former top-10 pick Owen Tippett, first-round picks in 2023 and 2024, a third-round pick in 2024 and another prospect. So unless Tkachuk's arrival brings a championship sooner than later, it's going to seem like asset management is the big loser in the long run.

Winner: Matthew Tkachuk

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    Executives and organizations are one thing.

    But if there's one party to all this who's unquestionably waking up happier today than he did yesterday, it's Tkachuk himself.

    On Friday morning, he was a disgruntled player poised to enter the final year of his contract amid huge uncertainty. By Saturday morning, he became a franchise player on a team coming off a Presidents' Trophy season, and a richer one at that.

    The Panthers topped off Friday's blockbuster by signing their newly acquired asset to an eight-year contract extension worth $9.5 million annually through 2029-30. He had been making $7 million per season for the last three and entered the summer as a restricted free agent before Calgary made a one-year qualifying offer for $9 million.

    At 24 and coming off his best statistical season, the left winger joins Florida center and team captain Aleksander Barkov, who formed a lethal 2021-22 pairing with Huberdeau, also a left wing, that yielded 69 goals and 134 assists between them.

    The Panthers won eight more games and finished 11 points ahead of Calgary in the league standings, and when you combine that with all the other bells and whistles being a professional athlete in south Florida has to offer, Tkachuk unquestionably traded up.

Loser: Atlantic Division

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    Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

    He's away from a city he wanted to leave and he banked some extra cash in doing so.

    But competitively speaking, Tkachuk went from a Pacific Division frying pan into an Atlantic Division fire.

    He and the Panthers will be running a standings gauntlet nearly every night in divisional play thanks to the presence of three other 100-point teams from last season, not to mention two more teams (Ottawa and Detroit) whose offseason moves have gotten rave reviews.

    And the Buffalo Sabres, from whom many observers expect big things in the future.

    Florida finished seven points up on the Toronto Maple Leafs and 12 ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who engaged in a memorable first-round playoff series that Tampa Bay ultimately took in seven games before advancing to a third straight Stanley Cup Final.

    Reigning MVP and 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews should ensure the Maple Leafs remain relevant for 2022-23, while the Lightning did well to mitigate free-agency losses and remain powerful. The Boston Bruins have been an annual factor in the tournament as well, albeit with some major question marks currently.

    One thing's for sure, if the Panthers repeat as top dogs in the division next season, they'll unquestionably have earned it.

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