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Photo Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Tkachuk took his game to new heights in 2021-22

Matthew Tkachuk put every question about his skill level to bed in 2021-22, blasting out of the gates this season on his way to achieving 100 points and 40 goals.

2020-21 was a rough season for Tkachuk, not as much ice time at points combined with a points-per-game that took a step back from the direction it had been headed the previous 4 seasons.

This off-season sees Tkachuk at a critical crossroads with the Calgary Flames – he’s owed a $9 million qualifying offer. Should he accept that he can walk himself to unrestricted free agency in the 2023 off-season – but he may be better served to try and cash in now.

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This off-season Is already underway – and Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman has reported Calgary is wasting no time in starting contract talks with not only Tkachuk but also with Johnny Gaudreau. If Gaudreau re-signs it could impact the total cap hit the Flames would be willing, or even able, to sign Tkachuk for.

The past

One year of major junior with a Memorial Cup Championship was all Tkachuk was able to accomplish before turning pro. Playing on an infamous line with Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner, the London Knights ran over all of their competition on the way to their championship.

At the draft the Flames gladly snagged Tkachuk sixth overall and by the following season he was playing with the big club – and playing well. He wasn’t relied on initially to be a top line forward – he allowed the pest in him to run wild and made many games more fun to watch then you would have expected going in.

Tkachuk is a player that creates storylines – good and bad. For myself it’s way more good than anything bad – he’s giving fans reasons to tune in. Whether it’s the public chirping and hard on-ice play against Drew Doughty, his help in reigniting a fueled hatred with the Oilers and Zack Kassian, and all the between the legs goals that get him hooked on highlight reels.

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Re-signing Matthew Tkachuk gets you a quality hockey player with a nose for the net, no doubt about that. Doing so also gives you someone that constantly puts fans in the seats no matter the score – those players are hard to come by.

The present

Tkachuk is coming off the single most productive regular season of his career. He tied for the team lead in goals (Elias Lindholm) with 42 while also nabbing 62 assists for 104 points. That’s just his counting statistics and they are fantastic. Personally, I would not be surprised to see Tkachuk named as a first or second team all-star for the right wing position.

Playoffs were a different story. Jake Oettinger was able to stop everyone from piling up lots of points in the first round and McDavid stormed through the Flames defence in the second round. The positive for Tkachuk was his performance in Game 7 of the first round. An important do-or-die game where he looked to be at the top of his game – he came off with the confidence of a big game player.

Enough with all the offence talk – we can get into Tkachuk’s great point totals all day, but we need to bring up his amazing defensive impact. Linemate Elias Lindholm is a Selke Trophy finalist, aided in part by great wingers that knew what job to do defending as well. I’m adamant that one player’s numbers aren’t as great without the other player, but it’s more of a compliment to both than an insult to one or the other.

 

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Blue means a lack of shots from that location relative to league replacement level. The darker the blue the better you are at defending that area. Red/dark red means lots of shots are coming from that area. Whether it’s the chart that takes the entire lineup of players out there or just Tkachuk’s individual contributions the results are fantastic. He’s a super smart player that knows where to be and how to transition the puck to an attack.

2021-22 was truly fantastic for Tkachuk – top notch at every level. Which is why I believe he should try to get his long term extension done now.

The future

The odds at having an even better season in 2022-23 than what just happened this season are marginal for Tkachuk. That’s not meant as an insult to him more as a compliment towards how hard it is to achieve those results in the first place.

By potentially playing out next season on a one-year contract Tkachuk risks injury – and we can see how quickly injuries can slow a player down. Two seasons ago Sean Monahan was producing at a top line NHL rate and now he can barely walk with the two hip surgeries. Singing a one-year extension and then going out and risking an injury can take dollars off the board in his future.

An eight-year deal would take Tkachuk to the end of his 32-year-old season. If the Flames end up not being competitive near the end of that it could be very likely he then gets moved for assets, but if they remain competitive throughout, he would walk his way to all-time legendary Flame status. A legacy for his entire life – a legacy the whole family can be proud of regardless of results.

I am still of the belief that if Johnny Gaudreau signs Tkachuk’s AAV would have to come in behind that. I’m not talking plenty behind that, but if Gaudreau only signs for $10.5 million it’s hard to pay Tkachuk that much too – especially with one RFA year involved. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see Tkachuk get a $10 million AAV after this season, but if it dipped down into the $9 million range I would not be shocked.

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Tkachuk is a player the team should avidly be trying to keep for 8 years as well. He appears motivated, smart and openly talks about Stanley Cup championships the way you hope players do. Regardless what happens he is an RFA – and should receive some form of contract from the Flames brass before the 2022-23 season begins.

2021-22 Flames player evaluations

Johnny Gaudreau | Calle Jarnkrok

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