July 22 — Predicting Tkachuk’s Future & the Calgary Conundrum

Last Night’s News 📰

NIEDERREITER TO NASHVILLE: Nino Niederreiter signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Nashville Predators on Thursday. The 29-year-old forward had 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists) in 75 regular season games and five (four goals, one assist) in 14 playoff games for the Carolina Hurricanes this past year.

KEEPIN’ KAPANEN: After bringing back Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in free agency, the Pittsburgh Penguins returned another depth forward to the fold, signing restricted free agent Kasperi Kapanen to a two-year deal. Coming off of a 32-point campaign, the soon-to-be 26-year-old will earn $3.2 million each of the next two seasons.

FROM PRO BOWL TO BENCH BOSS: Longtime hockey fan and Iowa native, Greg Kittle, dropped the puck on the opening faceoff and coached Team Tradition in Wednesday night’s Da Beauty League game against Team Bic. Kittle, a tight end for the San Francisco 49ers, became friends with Tradition forward Nick Bjugstad when the two met at the same physiotherapist in Minnesota.

A YEAR OF GRATITUDE: Celebrating the first anniversary of the 2021 Expansion Draft, Seattle Kraken players read letters from area youth hockey players welcoming them to the team. Jordan Eberle, Yanni Gourde, Chris Driedger, and Jared McCann responded to the messages on Seattle’s Twitter page.

Friday Favorites

Let’s look back at our favorite moments of the week.

Hockey Players Are Just Like Us

Jérémy Davies received a one-year, two-way contract with the Buffalo Sabres on July 13, 2022, the opening day of free agency. Fans would think the anxiety would subside once a team commits to a player, but not for Davies, who surprisingly did not own a printer. Therefore, his girlfriend Erin documented their emergency Staples run to print out and sign his new contract. Not only did she record the hilarious event, but she also added the theme song from the Home Depot commercials and captioned the video, “Me and my bf frantically running to Staples to sign his NHL contract before they change their minds because we can’t afford a printer.”

Puck Personality: Top Teammate

new segment of Puck Personality was released, and it did not disappoint, as fans can learn which players are considered the best teammates around the league. Alex DeBrincat and Matthew Tkachuk share who took them under their wing when they first broke into the NHL, and Seth Jones talks about another youngster he developed a friendship with while in Columbus. Every week, the NHL releases a new video, including their favorite Tom Hanks films and favorite things about hockey. 

On the Hunt for Spicy Pork

Louis Domingue became a household name thanks to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had to replace teammate Casey DeSmith halfway through the second overtime period and made 17 saves, securing the win over the New York Rangers. A legend was born when Domingue revealed that he ate a spicy pork and broccoli meal between the first and second overtimes. On July 13, 2022, he signed a contract with the Rangers, and naturally, the first question he had was where to find “a good spicy pork restaurant in NYC.” Well played, Domingue.

Some Encouraging History for Calgary

The NHL isn’t the NBA, where one of the league’s biggest superstars demands a trade with four years remaining on his contract. Still, hockey is no stranger to relations souring between player and club, with separation appearing to be the only plausible outcome. While Matthew Tkachuk has not explicitly demanded a trade out of Calgary, his reported unwillingness to sign a long-term extension has muddled his future with the Flames and gotten other teams circling.

Tkachuk’s restricted free agency and possible change of address are understandably dominating headlines during a slow news period, but this isn’t exactly new ground. So, how have similar past situations played out around the league? If you’re the Flames, there’s a reason for optimism.

We’re Better off Without You

Although one would think the team nearing a divorce with its disgruntled star would be at a disadvantage, considering the lack of leverage, the recent history of players wanting out is not one of ugly, lopsided deals. Jacob Trouba’s departure from Winnipeg netted the Jets defensive stalwart Neal Pionk and prospect Ville Heinola, and Jonathan Drouin’s reported tiff with Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper landed the Bolts Mikhail Sergachev.

Actually, Nah, You’re Going to Stay

One aspect of player/team rifts that often gets overlooked is that they don’t have to end in separation—as differences can get worked out. In the past year alone, both Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues and Jake DeBrusk of the Boston Bruins were at odds with their respective clubs. Neither man got moved, and after a pair of playoff-bound seasons, neither appears anxious to pack their bags any longer.

To Be Determined

Tkachuk is unquestionably the name du jour on the rumor mill right now, but let’s not forget that he isn’t the only player who appears to be on the outs with his current club. John Klingberg remains available as an unrestricted free agent and expressed interest in returning to Dallas, even after reportedly asking out ahead of the trade deadline. Meanwhile, talk has gone quiet on a possible Jakob Chychrun trade. It remains to see where either blueliner winds up.

Contemplating Tkachuk

With the Calgary Flames filing for salary arbitration with Matthew Tkachuk on Monday (and Tkachuk saying he is unwilling to sign a long-term extension), everyone expects the Flames will trade him very soon. Plenty of teams should be interested, as the 24-year-old forward is coming off a career year in which he finished with 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in 82 regular season games and 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 12 playoff games.

Our contributors at The Hockey Writers put out lists of possible destinations for the restricted free agent, detailing why he would be a good fit with a team and what about those cities would interest him. So, in Morning Skate fashion, let’s look at why Tkachuk would not want to play for those clubs.

When it comes to Matthew Tkachuk’s next team, plenty of people are asking, “Why,” but we’re asking, “Why not?” (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

St. Louis Blues

Tkachuk has expressed interest in the Blues, which makes sense as he grew up in the St. Louis area, and his dad, Keith, works for the team. However, It could also make sense that he wants to go anywhere else, since moving back to where you spent your childhood and working at the same place as your father certainly isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

Looking at it from a hockey perspective, the Blues are the oldest team in the Western Conference (average age of 28.8) and likely have to part with young star Jordan Kyrou in a potential trade for Tkachuk, meaning he’ll probably be playing with a bunch of “old” guys. St. Louis will also need to shed some salary, as it is currently up against the cap.

New Jersey Devils

New Jersey has been exploring a possible trade for Tkachuk after missing out on teammate Johnny Gaudreau in free agency, and the Devils have plenty of cap space and young assets to swing a deal. Also, as with St. Louis, Tkachuk has familial ties to the Devils’ organization. GM Tom Fitzgerald happens to be a cousin of his.

Despite the factors just laid out, there are multiple reasons Tkachuk may not be interested in going to New Jersey. First of all, no matter how bright the future may appear, the Devils have missed the playoffs in nine of the last 10 seasons. Also, as mentioned above, maybe he isn’t interested in working for the family business.

New York Islanders

New York is another team in the market for a scoring winger, and Tkachuk would be a great addition to the Islanders’ top line alongside Mathew Barzal. However, Calgary’s asking price will be high and could include Barzal, meaning Tkachuk would have to shoulder most of the offensive load. He might not want to deal with the metaphorical back pain that could arise from that.

Also, if Tkachuk wants to play in New York, the Rangers are the most attractive option to be a contender. Tkachuk would be going from the Flames, the best team in their province (regular season), to the Islanders, who are not even the best team in their city. That sounds like a downgrade.