On Tuesday morning, Sportsnet reported that the likelihood of Matthew Tkachuk following Johnny Gaudreau out of Calgary has increased following the Calgary Flames filing for arbitration against the 24-year-old winger. That sentiment was doubled down when Eric Francis stated on 101 ESPN in St. Louis said that "he expects a possible Tkachuk trade to be wrapped up within the week. He said it was clear to him that the two are parting ways." That of course got New York Islanders fans going as we're now well over a week into free agency and Isles GM Lou Lamoriello has yet to make a single move to improve the current roster.
Tkachuk is one of the best wingers and players in the NHL. In all three zones, Tkachuk flourishes playing well in both his own end, the offensive end, and in transition:
In 82 games last season, Tkachuk posted a career-high 42 goals and 62 assists for a whopping 104 points. Some wonder if he was the beneficiary of Gaudreau who tallied 115 points of his own, but Tkachuk's underlying numbers suggest he drives play well himself and can continue to produce at a high level with different line-mates, although having a line-mate like Gaudreau helps, of course.
So why are the Flames moving a young player of Tkachuk's caliber? Well, it's been long rumored that Tkachuk won't commit long-term to Calgary. The Flames already lost one cornerstone player in Gaudreau and they prefer not to lose another for nothing. Filing for arbitration against Tkachuk eliminates the possibility that a team can offer sheet him which would ultimately maximize their return if and when he is traded.
It's rare a player like Tkachuk becomes available via trade and because of that, his price tag is sure to be expensive. Checking in with one of the Islanders beat writers who asked to remain anonymous, when asked what a package for Tkachuk could look like, he responded:
"Upon agreement of an extension? Two first-round picks, (Oliver) Wahlstrom, (Anthony) Beauvillier, and (Aatu) Räty."
Ultimately, a long-term extension would be the goal in a trade of this magnitude and the Islanders should only pull the trigger if that is agreed upon beforehand. But, that's quite the haul going back to the Flames in exchange for Tkachuk. He's absolutely worth it, too, but trading two first-round picks mean the Islanders will not select in the first round between 2020 and 2024 barring any later transactions that maybe bring a first-round pick back to the Islanders. Further, the Isles would be including their top prospect in Aatu Räty.
Again, Tkachuk is absolutely worth the price. He's the winger the Islanders have starved for to play next to Mathew Barzal and bringing in Tkachuk not only opens the Islanders' win-now window wider but also longer. Adding Tkachuk (24 years old) and Alexander Romanov (22 years old) this offseason gives the Islanders the opportunity to be playoff and Stanley Cup contenders for the foreseeable future, allowing them to recoup prospects in later drafts. The juice is worth the squeeze here.
But is it enough? Well, the Islanders prospect pool has been coined as one of the worst. The same anonymous Islanders beat writer followed up the suggested trade package with:
"That still might not be the best offer."
If Lamoriello breaks his silence and offers up a package of this magnitude, other teams will surely be interested and given the opportunity to match or surpass the offer. It's been long rumored that the St. Louis Blues and Tkachuk are a match following in his father's, Keith Tkachuk, footsteps. Only time will tell if it's at all a real possibility that the Islanders enter the Tkachuk sweepstakes, but in all fairness, there's not much in the hope of coming out on the other side victorious.
Instead, something that feels more likely to transpire is whichever team does acquire Tkachuk will also need to move salary to fit him on their roster. Lamoriello could certainly take advantage of that situation, striking when the iron is hot. And if it is indeed the Blues, one could reasonably speculate that Vladimir Tarasenko becomes the casualty of a cap dump, an excellent consolation prize for the Islanders if Lamoriello can muster up some magic and save the offseason for the Islanders.