After striking out on Johnny Gaudreau, the New Jersey Devils reportedly shifted their focus to another longtime Calgary Flames forward.
The Devils "were really interested in" Matthew Tkachuk and "tried hard to trade for him the last few days/weeks" before the Flames traded him to the Florida Panthers on Friday, according to NHL insider Renaud Lavoie.
The Flames traded Tkachuk to the Panthers in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, a lottery-protected 2025 first-round draft pick and a conditional fourth-round pick.
The Devils had also expressed interest in Gaudreau, but he went on to sign a seven-year, $68.25 million deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency. After striking out on both players, New Jersey is still projected to have $8.7 million in salary-cap space, per CapFriendly.
Landing one of Gaudreau or Tkachuk would have elevated the New Jersey offense, but there are still a number of free-agent forwards available for the taking, including Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Danton Heinen, among others. However, it's unclear if the Devils would be interested in any of those players.
The Flames and Tkachuk were headed for an inevitable divorce after Calgary announced Monday it filed for club-elected arbitration with the star forward.
However, Tkachuk informed the Flames that he didn't intend to sign a new contract with the franchise, per The Athletic's Jeremy Rutherford and Hailey Salvian, so they had to move on from him.
The Panthers were one of Tkachuk's preferred destinations, per Rutherford and Salvian. He was also reportedly interested in being moved to the St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators or Dallas Stars.
Tkachuk was a restricted free agent this summer after signing a three-year bridge deal in 2019. The 24-year-old had spent his entire six-year career in Calgary after being selected sixth overall in the 2016 NHL draft.
Tkachuk had a breakout 2021-22 season for the Flames, notching a career-high 42 goals and 62 assists for 104 points in 82 games. If he can continue to produce at a high level, the Panthers will once again be one of the most dangerous teams in the Eastern Conference next season.