Could the Canucks possibly make a Matthew Tkachuk trade work?

Photo credit:© Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Stephan Roget
2 years ago
Let’s start off today by thanking those of you able to stomach that headline long enough to actually click on it. What fortitude!
Last week, we took a good, long look at Sam Reinhart and came to the conclusion that — while he would certainly be a valuable addition to the team — the Vancouver Canucks simply can’t afford him, neither in terms of acquisition cost or future salary.
This week, there are rumours of an even better player on the market, and we’re back to see if it’s even conceivably possible to squeeze them into the Canucks’ core.
Former Canuck Shane O’Brien — a discount Kevin Bieksa in both his playing days and current post-hockey career — reported recently that the notoriously cantankerous Matthew Tkachuk might just be ready to cantanker himself right out of Calgary.
In any ordinary offseason, Tkachuk would easily be the best asset on the trade block. In the summer of 2021, that honour has to go to Jack Eichel. But Tkachuk isn’t far behind, and he could very well bring more of what the Canucks are looking for than even Eichel.
Unfortunately, the cost associated with actually bringing him to Vancouver will be exorbitant, and perhaps irreconcilably so.
Below, we’ll take a look at a potential Tkachuk acquisition step-by-step to determine if — maybe, just maybe — there’s any chance of him becoming a Canuck for the 2021/22 season.

The Player

Look, we all hate the guy, and rightfully so. But Matthew Tkachuk is an elite NHL winger, and that cannot be denied — only begrudgingly accepted.
In just 349 career games across five NHL seasons, Tkachuk has already compiled 110 goals, 168 assists, and 278 points. His .80 career PPG ranks 55th among NHL forwards during that time, which is impressive considering that goes right back to his rookie campaign.
In other words, the 23-year-old Tkachuk has produced like a first-line winger since arriving in the league, and these days he’s producing like a top-flite first-line winger. Over the past three seasons, only 11 left wingers have scored more per game than Tkachuk.
But everyone knows that Tkachuk’s game goes well beyond points — for better and for worse.
He’s among the more truculent players in the game of hockey, constantly in the middle of chaos, and usually the source of it. At his best, his antagonistic ways can drive opponents into unsuccessful insanity. At his worst, it’s Tkachuk’s teammates who suffer from his antics.
Call it fortitude, feistiness, or backbone. Heck, call it douchebaggery. Either way, it’s something that the Canucks lack and that Tkachuk offers in spades.
Whether he’s under control or off the leash entirely, Tkachuk would instantly become the best left winger on the Canucks’ roster, and probably their best winger overall — though Brock Boeser might have a thing or two to say about that.
Tkachuk is coming off a bit of a down season, in which he only obtained 43 points in 56 games. It’s also worth mentioning his fairly abysmal playoff track record of five points in 15 postseason games.
But realistically speaking, there isn’t a franchise in this league that couldn’t benefit from the addition of Tkachuk, especially if it’s a franchise willing to teach Tkachuk a little patience and restraint.
And hey, we know a team that just hired the two most patient and restrained players in the history of the sport as special advisors, so…

The Fit

Fitting Tkachuk into the Canucks’ top-six wouldn’t be much of an issue at all.
He’s capable of playing either wing, but is a natural left winger. That could allow him to bump JT Miller off the top line and all the way down to 3C, resulting in a lineup something like:
Mix and match as you like.
Tkachuk would also look a-okay on either side of Bo Horvat. Both qualify as power forwards, but Tkachuk prefers to make plays where Horvat often prefers to shoot. That could be a match made in hell for opponents. It might even be feasible to do that AND keep Miller on the third line for maximum depth:
Any way you slice it, that’s a much better top-six than what the Canucks iced in 2021.
Adding Tkachuk also has the bonus benefit of making the Calgary Flames, who will remain a divisional rival even after the demise of the North Division, much easier to play against. That’s always a plus.
Now that we’re on the topic of rivals, however, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the whole “Tkachuk out of Calgary” rumour stems from his apparent desire to return to his childhood home of St. Louis. By acquiring him now, do the Canucks make it all the much easier for him to bail for the Blues when his next contract expires?
Quite possibly, and that’s something to be avoided. But if the Canucks could lock Tkachuk up now to a long-term contract, that wouldn’t be an issue.
Well, about that…

The Salary

Tkachuk is just finishing a three-year bridge deal with an AAV of $7 million, a contract he signed right off his ELC. As a pending RFA, his down 2021 season might prevent him from cashing in quite as big as he’d hoped, but that’s not necessarily true.
In order to even retain Tkachuk’s rights beyond 2021/22, the organization holding them will have to give him a qualifying offer of $9 million for one year. There’s nothing stopping him from signing that, redeeming himself next season, and then shooting for the upper tiers of the salary grid.
Keeping Tkachuk in the long-term is going to cost something in the range of $8 to 9 million per season. 
We mentioned in our Sam Reinhart article that Reinhart’s potential $6 to 7 million salary would be nearly impossible for the Canucks to squeeze in, and leave them hamstrung in other parts of the roster. Tkachuk is undoubtedly a better player than Reinhart, but the Canucks are no more capable of fitting him in – in fact, they’re arguably less so. 
Signing Tkachuk in the short- and long-term would require the dealing of at least one high-salary player already on the roster — think JT Miller — and then you’re robbing Peter Forsberg to pay Paul Kariya. 
There’s also the internal salary structure to consider. Elias Pettersson is about to sign a bridge deal very similar to the one Tkachuk is just finishing. From here on out, most are hoping that Pettersson elevates his game over and above that of Tkachuk. If he does, and you’re already paying Tkachuk $9 million, what the heck do you think Pettersson is going to ask for?
With all that said, if Tkachuk were available on the unrestricted free agency market, you’d probably still want the Canucks to make a bid. You could sign him and then figure out the salary cap complications around him. He’s a unique enough talent to make it worthwhile.
But Tkachuk is not available on the unrestricted free agency market. Quite the opposite, in fact.

The Cost

If you haven’t already given up on the pipe-dream that is Matthew Tkachuk joining the team with which he rhymes, this is the section that should do it.
The Calgary Flames hold Tkachuk’s rights for the foreseeable future, and they have no real impetus to trade him for anything less than an overpayment — even if his trade demands go public. There aren’t many teams in the league that wouldn’t put in an offer for him, and that will mean a bidding war.
Just signing Tkachuk to a 2022 offer sheet over and above $8.7 million for five years – which would be necessary to hold any hope of the Flames not matching – would incur compensation of two firsts, a second, and a third. Even then, they still might match, and he’d have to be willing to sign the offer sheet in the first place to even get to that point.
In terms of a trade, then, the asking price starts at two first round picks – including this year’s 9th overall selection – and goes up from there. 
Way up, to be perfectly honest, if it’s the Canucks inquiring.
The last place the Flames would want to send Tkachuk is Edmonton. But the second-last place they’d want to send him is Vancouver. Expect an exorbitant tax to be added to any trade talks between the two franchises, especially for a player that the Flames would really rather not play against nine times a year moving forward.
Is blowing up the salary structure to add Tkachuk to the top-six worth the Canucks’ while?
Is it worth blowing up the salary structure AND giving up multiple firsts, top prospects like Vasily Podkolzin and Jack Rathbone, and maybe even a valuable roster player like Miller or Höglander?
So, worry not, Vancouver fans. You can still safely hate on Tkachuk for years to come — because he’s not coming to Vancouver as anything other than an adversary.

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