Matthew Tkachuk would likely still be eligible for the Calgary Flames if the front office had granted his wishes in 2019.
The Florida Panthers winger asked to be traded from Calgary this summer — and was ultimately part of it — but according to him, there was a point in time where he wanted to stay long-term.
“During this process this summer, I kind of thought back to three years ago when I was going through my contract position at the time,” Tkachuk said.. “The whole process after my initial level, I was like, ‘No, [I want to sign for] six, seven, eight years. What are we doing?’ And nothing really came of it.”
Unfortunately for him and the Flames, retroactively, their cap structure forced them to re-sign Tkachuk to a short-term deal with less success as they tried to remain competitive with their current roster. After sitting out most of training camp before the 2019-20 season, he finally put pen to paper on a three-year, $21 million deal.
“In the middle of training camp, [Treliving] it was like, “The only way we can keep this team together is [signing you for] three years.’ I was like, ‘OK, this is not my ideal situation.'” Tkachuk said.
That one move gave a 24-year-old winger at the top of his game the option to leave much sooner than he would have initially thought.
“So fast forward three years, I’m getting to this point and I’m kind of just sitting back and watching everything unfold,” 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 happen with other teams. Because there was a little bit of uncertainty with me in Calgary. To be honest, I once had this conversation [Panthers GM Bill Zito] during the RFA season I knew Florida was the route I wanted to take. Even though I wanted to, there was no guarantee.”
The Flames and Panthers eventually made the devastating deal that saw Tkachuk head to the Sunshine State in exchange for a package that included star forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar.
And right now, it looks like Tkachuk made the right decision. After signing an eight-year, $76 million contract with the Flames and being sent to Florida in the NHL’s first sign-and-trade move, the young winger is lighting it up. Tkachuk leads the Panthers in scoring with 17 points in just 12 games, and is still his spontaneous self, also earning 30 penalty minutes.
On the other side of the trading coin, the Flames have been stuck in the mud with a 5-5-2 start to their season and both Huberdeau and Weegar haven’t been producing as much offensively as they would have hoped, with the winger putting up just six points through moment.
In a league that tends to err on the side of safety rather than risk, Tkachuk made a bet that he could escape Calgary and land somewhere that’s both competitive and a nice location. Living in warm weather year round, getting paid millions, scoring goals and winning hockey games sounds like a decent paycheck.
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