The Nashville Predators are in the market for a top-six forward, and the Calgary Flames happen to have one available.
According to a report from Jeremy Rutherford and Hailey Salvian of The Athletic, star forward Matthew Tkachuk informed the Flames that he would not be re-signing and provided the club with a list of organizations with which he would sign long-term contracts — a group that includes the Predators.
“One source familiar with Tkachuk’s list said that St. Louis, Vegas, Florida, Nashville and Dallas are options,” The Athletic reported.
Tkachuk checks a lot of boxes for the Predators. Coming off a 42-goal, 102-point season, he is a dynamic, young winger who can also add some punch to the power play, as evidenced by his 12 goals and 29 points on the man advantage last year.
Tkachuk plays a hard-nosed, wear-you-down kind of game that exhausts opponents over the course of 60 minutes. He excels at getting under his opponents’ skin and baiting opposing players into taking mindless penalties.
However, the Predators would not only have to clear the cap space needed to sign Tkachuk to a contract extension but also find the right combination of roster players, picks and prospects that would entice the Flames to part with a 40-goal, 100-point forward who doesn’t turn 25 until December.
To even keep Calgary at the table, any trade offer would likely have to eclipse the value of the four first-round picks the Flames took out of the equation in the form of an offer sheet when they filed for club-elected salary arbitration with Tkachuk.
Colton Sissons, who has a $2.88 million cap hit, and Dante Fabbro, who has a $2.4 million cap hit, not only make sense as acquired assets for the Flames but one or both would also clear the necessary cap space to offer a long-term deal to Tkachuk, who is a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of $9 million.
Reports indicate that any contract extension he signs would likely cost more.
What could the Predators offer?
There have been three comparable trades in the last few years that I believe could lay the framework for a potential Tkachuk deal:
2021 — the Golden Knights get Jack Eichel; the Buffalo Sabres get Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a 2022 first-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick.
2019 — the St. Louis Blues get Ryan O’Reilly; the Sabres get Tage Thompson, Vladimir Sobotka, Patrik Berglund, a 2019 first-round pick and a 2021 second-round pick.
2015 — the Sabres get Evander Kane; the Jets get Brendan Lemieux, Joel Armia, Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers and a 2015 first-round pick.
The Flames would almost certainly want 1. a roster player they can plug in and play right away; 2. multiple high draft picks; and 3. someone from the top of the Predators’ prospect pool.
The sense I get from those I’ve talked to close to the situation is that Nashville would almost certainly have to part with one of Yaroslav Askarov, Luke Evangelista or Zachary L’Heureux.
Although it’s early, goalie Askarov looks like a future star. But the Predators also have Vezina finalist Juuse Saros, who is only 27, under contract for at least three more years. Right now, Askarov is a luxury the team can afford to part with. Including an elite prospect like Askarov in any deal likely lessens the rest of any trade package.
A potential deal including the 20-year-old goalie could look something like:
2023 first-round pick
2024 third-round pick
Evangelista looks to be the real deal. He was impressive during both development camp and the Future Stars game, and he has the goal-scoring potential the Predators haven’t typically gotten from the forwards they draft.
L’Heureux ascended quickly to the top of Nashville’s farm system. He was a point-per-game player the last two years in the junior leagues, and he was drafted specifically because he excels at irritating opponents.
While both fine prospects in their own right, Evangelista and L’Heureux are not on Askarov’s level. The Predators would likely have to sweeten the pot a bit more if building an offer around either.
A second potential offer could include:
2023 first-round pick
2024 first-round pick
Trading for Tkachuk is going to hurt, at least in the short-term. But big picture, if the Predators can land a player of Tkachuk’s caliber — the top-of-the-draft goal scorer they typically are never bad enough to get their hands on — then they should go all-in to do so.
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_