Welcome back to another edition of Around the Pacific — a column in which we deliver you the news from around the Pacific Division through a Canucks-themed lens.
Earlier today, we ran another edition of Around the Pacific, meaning you’re getting two in one day!
That one was centred around the impending imploding of the Calgary Flames as we know them.
The Flames, who won the Pacific Divison this past season, lost Johnny Gaudreau at the 11th hour to free agency, and seem to have been in scramble mode ever since.
They made it clear during free agency that their number one priority was to get Matthew Tkachuk signed, but now, Tkachuk has reportedly informed the Flames that he won’t be signing in Calgary when his contract expires at the end of next season.
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Matthew Tkachuk has told the Calgary Flames that he won’t be re-signing with the club, multiple sources tell The Athletic, making a trade of the 24-year-old All-Star forward likely to happen soon.
Tkachuk has not officially asked for a trade, but the fact that the restricted free agent is unwilling to make a long-term commitment to Calgary would be the driving force behind the decision to move him now.
Obviously, the Flames would like to avoid repeating disaster by letting Tkachuk walk for nothing in free agency the same way they did with Johnny Gaudreau.
If you’re a Canucks fan, this means that the Pacific Division, in essence, is wide open.
If Tkachuk and Gaudreau re-sign — or maybe just if Tkachuk remained a Flame — there’s a good chance the Flames win the division once again, or are at least a lock for a top three spot.
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Further, the L.A. Kings — who added Kevin Fiala this offseason — Edmonton Oilers, and perhaps even the Vegas Golden Knights, are all going to be competitive next season, making it difficult for the Canucks to make the playoffs no matter what.
But with this news out of Calgary?
The Flames are almost certainly going to retool on the fly and try to establish a new young core while still possessing somewhat cost-controlled veteran players in Elias Lindholm, Jacob Markstrom, Chris Tanev, and Tyler Toffoli for the foreseeable future.
What this means is that next season, the Flames certainly aren’t a lock for a top three spot, and that the Pacific Division could become a four-horse race between the Canucks, Oilers, Golden Knights, and the Kings.
That being said, don’t discount the Flames’ ability to find ways to win under Darryl Sutter, or who they have in goal. Canucks fans know firsthand the ability that 2022 Vezina Trophy finalist Jacob Markstrom has to drag a weak team in front of him into the playoff hunt.
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If you’re betting though, the four teams to favour in the Pacific are likely the ones that didn’t take as nearly a monumental step back as the Flames have — and likely still will — this offseason.
The Pacific is certainly an easier division to play in than it appeared to be two weeks ago, and with the Canucks still expected to make some moves to flesh out their roster ahead of next season, the door could be wide open for the Canucks to grab a top three spot in the Pacific.
The other thing it means for the Canucks is that the player they infamously passed on in the 2016 Draft is now leaving their division, putting the club that drafted him in an even more difficult spot.
Olli Juolevi would never pull something like this.
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