Top Trades, Landing Spots for the Flames' Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny GaudreauJuly 4, 2021
Top Trades, Landing Spots for the Flames' Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau
These are frustrating times for fans of the Calgary Flames.
Not only has the team won just one championship since relocating from Atlanta in 1980, but recent years have been particularly fruitless, yielding a single official playoff series victory since a Game 7 loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting in the Stanley Cup Final 17 years ago.
This year's team missed the tournament entirely after finishing fifth in the seven-team North Division.
But it's not as if the Flames haven't had players.
Jarome Iginla played most of his 16 NHL seasons in Calgary on the way to the Hall of Fame, goalie Miikka Kiprusoff won a Vezina Trophy in 2005-06 and the current group that calls the Scotiabank Saddledome home includes two stars included in a collection of the league's best players prior to the 2020-21 season.
Left wingers Matthew Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau claimed spots No. 40 and 50, respectively, on that list and were two of the team's top three scorers this season, combining for 35 goals and 92 points.
Given the rampant underachievement, though, they are also two of the biggest trade targets.
Both players have been the subject of trade rumors as general manager Brad Treliving tries to assemble a roster that's capable of title contention, or at least the sort of consistency that yielded 15 playoff berths and 11 series wins in the first 16 seasons in Alberta's most populous city.
The idea that teammates who have combined for six All-Star Game appearances might be on the move prompted the B/R hockey writing gang to shift into overdrive, and we compiled a list including a handful of places that either forward could conceivably wind up if Treliving strikes the right deal.
Click through to see what we came up with, and let us hear a thought or two of yours in the comments.
Tkachuk to the St. Louis Blues
Spoiler Alert: Get ready for a few "no place like home" references.
The first comes with Tkachuk and the St. Louis Blues.
Though he was born in Arizona, the 23-year-old spent quite a few years in northeastern Missouri while his father, Keith, was a rugged forward for the Blues.
In fact, the elder Tkachuk played in St. Louis from 2001 to 2007, then returned for the final three seasons of his career after a brief stint in Atlanta and still lives there today.
So it's not exactly foreign territory for the youngster.
Add in the fact that current Blues forward Robert Thomas was a junior teammate of Matthew's and now lives in Keith's home in St. Louis and the idea of a homecoming isn't hard to imagine.
Tkachuk is heading into the final season of a three-year deal worth $21 million and he'll be due a $9 million qualifying offer as a restricted free agent next summer. The Blues have more than $17 million in cap space remaining with 17 players signed, so they have the financial wherewithal to make it work.
Prolific winger Vladimir Tarasenko is signed for two more seasons at $7.5 million before becoming an unrestricted free agent, which could make a one-for-one swap conceivable.
Or, St. Louis could play the hometown card with 28-year-old defenseman Colton Parayko, who's got a year left making $5.5 million and is an Alberta native.
The Blues also hold the 16th pick in this summer's draft, in case additional sweetening is needed.
Gaudreau to the Buffalo Sabres
It's big splash time for Kevyn Adams.
The Buffalo GM made the biggest move of last offseason when he landed Taylor Hall, but all he got for his trouble was a historically bad team, continuation of a decade-long streak of playoff misses and a trade deadline deal with Boston that left a lot of people scratching their heads.
Add in the chronic discontent of holdover star Jack Eichel and it's incumbent on Adams to make magic.
Some might be available in Gaudreau, a five-time All-Star with a year left on a deal paying him $6.75 million and just days remaining before the activation of a modified no-trade contract clause.
Perhaps bringing in a proven piece on "Johnny Hockey's" level would be enough to keep Eichel in town, providing him with a winger who's already got four seasons of 24 or more goals on his NHL resume.
The Sabres are flush with cap room and have the draft choices to get some deals done, and right-side defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen would also fill a gaping blue line hole for Treliving in Calgary.
Did someone say win-win?
Tkachuk to the New York Rangers
The New York Rangers have a lot of things.
They've got young talent from a series of recently high draft choices.
They've got a proven coach after the recent hiring of Gerard Gallant.
And they've got a passionate fan base anxiously awaiting an encore of 1994.
What they don't have is burly, skilled and charismatic power forward to champion the grind.
The 6'2", 202-pound Tkachuk could fill that role in midtown Manhattan, and he would be a significant get for the new regime of Gallant and recently hired GM Chris Drury.
His imminent qualifying offer is a concern financially, but the Rangers have better than $23 million in cap space at the moment and nine picks in this summer's draft, in addition to the aforementioned cadre of high-profile youngsters who've recently made the NHL jump.
Winger Kaapo Kakko is just 20 and has a high ceiling if the Flames are seeking a youthful injection to their retooling, or New York could compile a package of personnel and picks if Treliving favors that route.
Speaking of routes, what time does the parade start?
Gaudreau to the New Jersey Devils
Once a Jersey guy, always a Jersey guy.
OK, so Gaudreau has spent his entire professional life in Canada. But New Jersey Devils GM Tom Fitzgerald could at least try to appeal to the player's Garden State attachment in getting a deal done. After all, Gaudreau was born in Salem, New Jersey, less than two hours down the turnpike from the Devils' home at the Prudential Center in Newark.
But it's not just about home cooking and proximity to the shore.
Like the Rangers alongside them, New Jersey has spent much of its recent history stockpiling young talent and draft picks, including No. 1 overall picks Nico Hischier (2017) and Jack Hughes (2019). Those two combined for 17 goals and 25 assists in limited time together last season, and either could benefit from Gaudreau sliding in alongside them on the left wing.
Only two teams boast more projected cap space than the Devils and their $37.6 million, so taking on the last year of Gaudreau's deal and offering him a hometown ransom to stay isn't undoable.
As for the return, 26-year-old defenseman Damon Severson was a second-round pick in 2012, has produced points at a steady rate for several seasons and has two years remaining at $4.167 million per. He would be a worthwhile piece who would fill a Calgary need and highlight a package alongside a pick and a prospect.
Maybe Bon Jovi was right, after all. Who says you can't go home?
Tkachuk to the Philadelphia Flyers
To say the Philadelphia Flyers had an ugly 2020-21 is an understatement.
The Flyers were the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs in 2019-20 before a surprise bouncing by the New York Islanders. And the free fall continued with an encore season that featured just 25 wins in 56 games and a sixth-placed finish in the eight-team East Division.
No playoffs. No end to a title drought that's now stretched to 46 years.
And no chance that GM Chuck Fletcher won't go big in an effort to turn things around.
Few possible moves would be bigger than chasing Tkachuk, who would bring a hard-hitting grit on the wing that the team was missing last season, not to mention a skill set that produced 34 goals in 2018-19.
The Flyers have better than $13 million in cap space and a full complement of draft picks this summer, so the tools needed to get Treliving to part with his pest are in place.
Start it off with the No. 13 pick in the 2021 draft and toss in a sound defenseman—2014 first-rounder Travis Sanheim or veteran Shayne Gostisbehere, perhaps—and then top it with a winger like Travis Konecny in return.
Tkachuk gets his change of scenery, the Flames get new blood and Treliving frees up some cash to allow for more future moves too.
Gaudreau to the Philadelphia Flyers
Hey, wait a minute! You're not suggesting the Flyers get both Tkachuk and Gaudreau, are you?
Not unless the GMs are feeling really frisky in their downtime and want to take one collective personnel swing prior to the arrival of next season.
Assuming that's not the case, it doesn't change the fact that either could well end up in Philly.
But where Tkachuk is 1A, Johnny Hockey is surely No. 1.
Though his birth certificate says New Jersey, Gaudreau was a diehard Flyers fan as a kid and suggested himself a few years ago that the idea of one day playing on Broad Street would be "sweet."
Further, an October podcast hosted by former Flyer Scottie Upshall included a proposal that Gaudreau could don the black and orange for a package including winger Jakub Voracek and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, along with a prospect.
Voracek has scored 20 or more goals in six seasons with the Flyers, and Gostisbehere is an offensive-leaning defenseman who would make more sense these days on Calgary's blue line than Philadelphia's.
Meanwhile, Gaudreau's average of 78 points per season could help Philadelphia play to its No. 1 seed, and the aforementioned cap space on the Flyers end allows for another contract or two to the package coming East to give Gritty a new soulmate.
Salary-cap information according to CapFriendly.