Let’s start off by stating the obvious. The Boston Bruins really aren’t in a position to do anything massive with their NHL roster given the state of their salary cap and the unsigned status of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Pavel Zacha deep into the summer offseason.
Per our friends PuckPedia, the Boston Bruins have slightly more than $2 million in salary cap space and they’re also a hockey club that’s got a massive long-term question as contract extension negotiations play out with game-breaking winger David Pastrnak. So why shouldn’t they push in the chips and make a play for disgruntled power forward Matthew Tkachuk as it seems clear he’s not going to stick around Calgary for the long haul. Naturally it has everybody talking.
Where will Matthew Tkachuk be playing next season? Fill in the blanks. ✍️⤵️ pic.twitter.com/92be8RWC8B
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 21, 2022
On the surface, Tkachuk is a familiar Boston name with a ton of history as part of hockey royalty around these parts. And he plays exactly the kind of game that Boston Bruins fans have been clamoring for since Milan Lucic left town seven years ago.
He’s a game-changer from a physical standpoint, he’s an intimidator and he’s a guy at 24 years old that’s just entering his prime power forward years. Those are the seasons when his old man Keith was putting up a 50-goal season for the Phoenix Coyotes.
Beyond that, he also gets the pocket protector fancy stats brigade all breathless with his analytical numbers. So we’ll see all kinds of colorful bar graphs illustrating what most of us can already see on the ice, Tkachuk is a game-changing force that finished with 42 goals and 104 points while playing in all 82 games this past season.
Matthew Tkachuk is a unicorn. Every single team should be in on him. pic.twitter.com/vqDmaOhwid
— dom (@domluszczyszyn) July 20, 2022
Just look at those yellow bar graphs! Wow!
He puts up offense, he is extremely hard to play against and the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder gets to the inside ice that Boston Bruins President Cam Neely was lamenting was an issue with this B’s team during this past spring’s disappointing first round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“The playoffs certainly gave me some indication that we’ve got to do a little better job of getting inside the dots. Maybe not try to have such a rush mentality,” said Neely back in May. “I thought we were getting a little stubborn at times, turning pucks over the blue line, whether it was an entry on the power play or 5-on-5. I think at times, you’ve got to take what’s given to you and sometimes you’ve got to dump it in and go get it and grind it out.”
Do the Boston Bruins need a player like, well, Neely in his prime?
“It would be great to have someone like that, there’s no question,” said Neely. “I think every team would love that, and the teams that have them, they hang onto them. They don’t let them go. It’s just a matter of the scouting department going to work and trying to find someone for us.”
In this case, the Flames are going to end up letting one of those players go. It’s a no-brainer that Tkachuk makes sense for the Black and Gold on a superficial level. Let’s look at the reasons that it probably won’t happen.
First, there’s this from The Athletic that Tkachuk has reportedly already let it be known that he’d only be willing to sign contract extensions with certain teams, and that the St. Louis Blues, Florida Panthers, Vegas Golden Knights, Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars were the teams on that list. It wasn’t confirmed that was the current list provided to the Flames with urgency perhaps stepped up in moving him, and BHN has confirmed with hockey sources that the New Jersey Devils are absolutely one of the teams on the chase.
The Tkachuk/Devils connection makes all the sense in the world given that Tkachuk’s cousin, Tom Fitzgerald, is the GM running the show in New Jersey. Unfortunately, Boston does not appear anywhere on that Tkachuk list to this point and that ultimately would be the sticking point that would/could kill a deal.
The 6-foot-2, 202-pounder is lefty-shooting left wing, so there’s obviously some roster gymnastics that would have to happen as well. The logical, reasonable deal to be made would be a one-for-one seismic swap between the Bruins and Calgary Flames with 26-year-old David Pastrnak traded for Tkachuk with both players no longer under team control beyond this season.
But sources indicated to BHN that the Flames wouldn’t do that kind of a deal unless Pastrnak were already signed to a contract extension, a piece of insurance Calgary GM Brad Treliving would have to have after Johnny Gaudreau left him holding a big bag of cash, literally, on NHL free agency frenzy day.
It’s highly debatable if it would even be worth it for the Bruins to swap out Pastrnak for Tkachuk straight up, and it becomes infinitely more problematic when it comes to convincing No. 88 to sign an extension if there was even a hint that a move to Calgary would be in the offing.
There’s also the practical problems of bringing a premium left wing like Tkachuk on board with the Boston Bruins already holding Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall on their roster with long term deals. Sure, it would work out for a couple of months while Marchand is rehabbing from double-hip surgeries, but what happens when first year coach Jim Montgomery is left dealing with somebody of import unhappy that they’re playing on their off wing.
There’s also the cap space problem for a player due $9 million in a qualifying offer this season and probably even more than that moving forward on a brand-new contract. Trading for a player like Tkachuk and immediately making him the team’s highest paid player could pull this team apart, or be exactly the kind of decisive, bold statement move that this Boston Bruins franchise is badly in need of these days.
The bottom line: There’s a lot of practical reasons to say this is never going to happen.
But the Boston Bruins should try it all anyway and leave no stone unturned to try and bring a Tkachuk back to Boston. Maybe it’s a hockey fairy tale and maybe there is a zero percent chance of it happening, but Matthew Tkachuk is a fantasy worth pursuing for a Boston Bruins hockey club where he’d be a perfect fit on all levels.