These have been the darkest two weeks in Calgary Flames history. Fresh off of a highly positive season, the Flames were dealt a massive blow with the loss of Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets via free agency. I’m not going to lie, this one stung. Gaudreau was the favourite for many, and his departure will leave a massive hole in the Flame’s offense. At least we still have Matthew Tkachuk. Right?
That’s what we thought. Recent reporting via The Athletic has stated that Matthew Tkachuk has informed the Flames he will not be signing a long-term extension with them, and as a result, will be traded. In the article, he outlines a number of teams that he would be willing to sign long-term extensions with – St.Louis, Vegas, Florida, Nashville, and Dallas. This article will explore what I would want in a return for the star forward as the Flames are almost indefinitely headed for a rebuild.
St. Louis Blues
Understandably, the haul for a player of Matthew Tkachuk’s caliber is massive. It’s important to remember that players are rarely traded for their full worth, so I don’t think these packages are the very best deal the Flames can get but rather what’s realistic.
The ironic thing about this trade is that Jordan Kyrou was chosen with a Flames draft pick received in the Brian Elliot trade all those years ago. He’s a fantastic 24-year-old center that’s only entering his prime now and would fit in well on the Flame’s top line. Scott Perunovich was a mid-second-round pick in 2018 and is likely to become an NHLer. Jake Neighbours is also an intriguing prospect whose value has fallen since a less than impressive D+2 campaign. With St. Louis likely making the playoffs next year, their first-round pick won’t be as valuable.
This trade gives the Flames an up-and-coming first-line center along with some great prospects to help retool the prospect cupboard. The loss of Gaudreau and Tkachuk are huge offensive holes that will need to be filled at some point to get back to a competitive team.
Vegas Golden Knights
This one was hard. Not only is Vegas a divisional rival, but they don’t have many pieces that a rebuilding team would want. Many of their core forwards are in their early 30s, but I chose Shea Theodore as the main piece coming back. He’s been a mainstay on Vegas’ back end since their inception and has only gotten better with time, becoming a star in his own right.
Lukas Cormier is the prospect coming back and is probably Vegas’ best prospect with the highest star probability in the system according to Hockey Prospecting. At only 20 years old he has lots of room for growth on a Calgary team that won’t be competitive for a few years to come. The first-round pick likely won’t be high, and wouldn’t be as valuable as a result.
This trade gives the Flames a star defenceman, defensive prospect, and first-round pick for a bonafide star in Tkachuk. This trade probably doesn’t hit all the boxes as the pieces coming back are all defensive, leaving a huge gap offensively.
With how good the Panthers have been in recent years, there weren’t too many prospect pieces to choose from. I chose Verhaeghe as the main piece because he feels like the odd man out – Florida wouldn’t part ways with Huberdeau or Barkov and most likely wouldn’t trade a recently acquired piece in Reinhart. So, Verhaeghe becomes the piece to shore up the top 6 winger spot as a bonafide scorer.
Anton Lundell is probably the only really good prospect in the Panthers system and has to be included in a trade for a star like Tkachuk. Drafted in 2020, the almost 21-year-old center has a 73% chance of becoming a star according to Hockey Prospecting and would be the logical first choice for a piece coming back to the Flames. As with the previous two teams, Florida is a great team that likely will pick late, meaning there’s not much value attached to the picks in the trade.
This trade isn’t as bad as it seems. Do the Flames lose a budding star at 24 years old? Yes, and they’ll still lose this trade as a result. However, a bonafide top 6 sniper in Verhaeghe and a great prospect with some picks could minimize the damage.
This is where the trades start to get interesting. As a firm believer in Dustin Wolf, I chose not to target the obvious return in Yaroslav Askarov despite being their best prospect. Instead, I focused on Philip Tomasino, who has dropped down their prospect rankings but at one time was a top prospect. If he can return to form, the Flames get a scoring top-6 winger along with a fantastic young defenceman in Ryan Ufko, a 4th-round pick in 2021 that is projecting to become a top-4 defenceman.
The picks here are interesting. As we saw in the playoffs, the Predators are one goalie injury away from not being competitive. Could they take the chance that Josi doesn’t repeat his 90+ point season and Saros regresses for a swing at a top 10 pick? Who knows, but it could be a gamble that pays off.
This trade brings in a little bit of everything – a potential top-6 forward, top-4 defenceman, and two possible high picks. This whole trade is a gamble, one that could pan out or go down as one of the worst trades in team history.
This is by far the most controversial trade I’ve come up with because for once, it includes more than one player going the other way. In the theme of going home, Calgary would also send Texas native Blake Coleman to a Stars team that severely lacks offense. The Flames would get a star back in Jason Robertson, who’s not yet signed by the Stars. The Flames would get an impact player back in Robertson and would likely mitigate the loss of Tkachuk to some degree. Logan Stankhoven and Thomas Harley would be the prospects coming back, as both are projected to be solid NHL’ers in the near future.
The picks are in the same boat as Nashville. Dallas has been allergic to scoring goals for some time now, and although Tkachuk and Coleman are massive upgrades, the rest of their team still can’t score. If Jake Oettinger can’t keep up his level of success, how far can Dallas go? Their first-rounder may just be higher than expected and again is a gamble.
This trade is probably the fairest of all of them, but again is still a loss for Calgary. The package would be nice but would also prevent the Flames from going into a rebuild with a star in return like Robertson, doing more damage in the long run.
The bottom line is that being forced to trade a star in their prime will never yield a “win”. What the last couple of weeks have shown is that when you have stars, you give every opportunity you can to try and win with them or risk losing them. The question now turns to what Brad Treliving chooses to do with his return. Does he try and stay competitive or blow it up for a rebuild? His failure to keep two star players in the city leads me to believe he shouldn’t be the GM to lead either. Regardless of the outcome of the eventual Tkachuk trade, this is truly ushering in a dark age for the Calgary Flames hockey club.