Matthew Tkachuk would likely still be suiting up for the Calgary Flames if the front office had met his wishes in 2019.
The Florida Panthers winger asked to be traded out of Calgary this summer – and was eventually part of – but according to him, there was a point in time where he wanted to stick around long-term.
“During this process this summer, I kind of thought back to three years prior when I was going through my contract situation then,” said Tkachuk on. “Throughout the whole process after my entry-level, I was just like ‘No, [I want to sign for] six, seven, eight years. What are we doing?’ And nothing really came from it.”
Unfortunately for him and the Flames, retrospectively, the cap structure forced them to re-sign Tkachuk to a short-term deal with less of a cap hit, as they tried to stay competitive with their current roster. After sitting out for most of training camp before the 2019-20 season, he eventually put pen to paper on a three-year, $21-million deal.
“In the middle of training camp, [Treliving] was like, ‘The only way we can keep this team together is [signing you for] three years.’ I was like ‘Okay, this isn’t my ideal situation.’” Tkachuk said.
That one single move gave a 24-year-old winger at the top of his game an option to leave way earlier than he would have originally thought.
“So fast forward three years, I get to this point and I’m kind of just sitting back and watching everything unfolding,” he said. “When I didn’t sign before the RFA period, I wanted, given my rights, to be able to talk to other teams just to see different paths, or what could go on with other teams. Because there was a little bit of uncertainty with me in Calgary. To be honest, once I had that talk with [Panthers GM Bill Zito] during the RFA period I knew Florida was the route I wanted to go down. Even though I wanted that, there was no guarantee.”
The Flames and Panthers eventually made the earth-shattering deal that saw Tkachuk head to the Sunshine State in exchange for a package including star winger Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar.
And right now, it seems like Tkachuk made the right decision. After signing an eight-year, $76-million contract with the Flames and getting sent to Florida in the NHL’s first sign-and-trade move, the young winger is lighting it up. Tkachuk is leading the Panthers in scoring with 17 points in just 12 games, and is still able to be his rough-and-tumble self, earning 30 penalty minutes as well.
On the other side of the transactional coin, the Flames are stuck in the mud with a 5-5-2 start to their season and both Huberdeau and Weegar aren’t producing as much offensively as they would have hoped, with the winger only earning six points so far.
In a league that tends to err on the side of security rather than risk, Tkachuk made the gamble that he could escape Calgary and land somewhere that is both competitive and a nice location. Living in year-round warm weather, getting paid millions, scoring goals, and winning hockey games seems like a decent payout.
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