On Monday night, the Flames tweeted out that they have elected for salary arbitration for Tkachuk. This move allows them more time to figure out their next move while not having to worry about the possibility of an offer sheet.
While the Flames now get more time to work on next steps, there is a growing sense that the end result will be a trade to a team Tkachuk is willing to sign a long-term deal with. They cannot allow what happened with them with Gaudreau. They must maximize a return in any potential trade.
There would be 31 teams calling the Flames about Tkachuk’s availability. He’s a true one-of-a-kind player who can impact the game in so many ways. Adding him to someone’s top-six could be the thing that gets teams over the top on their quest for the Stanley Cup.
The question we are going to consider today is should the Maple Leafs change course and look into acquiring Tkachuk. There is no question they have the means to do it should they be interested. Our Kevin Armstrong wrote last July that the Maple Leafs should jump into the Tkachuk rumor to see about potential interest.
Maple Leafs With Tkachuk
Imagine this scenario for a minute. Auston Matthews. John Tavares. Mitch Marner. And then Tkachuk. Talk about taking your core four to a whole new level.
If the Maple Leafs somehow shocked the world and landed Tkachuk in a trade, they would have the arguably the best top-six in the NHL with those four leading the way. He would bring a level of physicality that would be hard to stop. Tkachuk, Matthews and Marner on a line would be just downright nasty.
Let’s not forget to that Tkachuk and Marner played together on the London Knights and made up one of the most dominant lines in recent junior hockey memory. There would be instant chemistry. The Maple Leafs would be prudent to at least explore the opportunity.
Maple Leafs Have Means to Acquire Tkachuk
Let’s now consider the potential price in any trade involving Tkachuk. The Maple Leafs are already over the cap limit so it would take them moving money out in a deal. It would also take them moving some key current and futures pieces to make a trade a reality.
Starting with the current roster, the two obvious names that would jump out are William Nylander and Alex Kerfoot. These two alone combine for a cap hit of over $10.4 million this season. Kerfoot is UFA after this season and Nylander has two seasons left. But it would take much more than this for the Flames to even think about it.
Here’s where the Maple Leafs would look to sweeten the pot. Their top prospects are generally untouchable. But for someone like Tkachuk, they come into play. Would adding Matthew Knies or Rodion Amirov and a first rounder be enough?
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For the Flames to consider any trade, they’d need a haul back. Landing two roster players and two prime future pieces could make them at least think about it.
No matter what combination the Maple Leafs would throw at this, they have the means to make a deal work so long as money goes the other way and offer enough quality futures to go with it.
But as good as it all sounds, this feels like a pipedream at best for the Maple Leafs despite their best thoughts. They face long odds in acquiring Tkachuk.
All Comes Down to Tkachuk’s Desires
Here’s where the story might end for the Maple Leafs. Gaudreau wanted to go to the states and to the Eastern Conference. The Flames threw a huge offer at Gaudreau and he said no to them.
Tkachuk could be in the same situation where he has a destination in mind. If it’s in the states, it doesn’t matter what the Maple Leafs do. It won’t be good enough.
Maybe, just maybe reuniting Tkachuk with Marner and being able to play with Matthews could get him to think about coming to the Maple Leafs. But if his heart says he wants to be in the United States, it’s game over and you move on.
The general belief is that the St. Louis Blues and perhaps the Boston Bruins would have serious interest in acquiring Tkachuk. How about the Ottawa Senators and playing with his brother Brady? It’s tempting but that’s not in the United States.
Maple Leafs Must Try Anyway
It’s not often top-five overall players become potentially available in trade. Tkachuk would be an upgrade on any team especially the Maple Leafs. They must at least investigate the possibility to see if he would have any interest in joining a stacked top-six.
The reality is that the odds of Tkachuk joining the Maple Leafs are very slim despite how much fun that would be. There’s still nothing wrong with throwing your hat in the ring to see what transpires.
Tkachuk controls the deck of cards from a final destination standpoint. That appears too much for the Maple Leafs to overcome in this situation.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.