Johnny Gaudreau has signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets. A trade involving Matthew Tkachuk appears imminent. The Calgary Flames have lost one really great hockey player and seem primed to lose another one, dismantling the best line in hockey last season.
The departures of Gaudreau and Tkachuk will have a serious on-ice impact. How much worse are the Flames without these two players?

Ice time

(Unless otherwise noted, the data cited is from Natural Stat Trick).
Gaudreau and Tkachuk played almost exclusively together last season. They played on the first line at even strength with Elias Lindholm, and on the first power play unit primarily with Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Tyler Toffoli.
Gaudreau and Tkachuk were on the ice for 28.4% of five-on-five time, and the Flames out-scored their opponents 86-32 with both of them on the ice. With either one of them on the ice (but not both), the Flames out-scored their opponents 16-10. With both of them on the bench, the Flames were out-scored 97-94.
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Gaudreau and Tkachuk were on the ice for 28.5% of all ice time, and the Flames out-scored their opponents 141-44 with both of them on the ice. With either one of them on the ice (but not both), the Flames out-scored their opponents 23-17. With both of them on the bench, the Flames were out-scored 148-131.
All things considered, and bearing in mind that (a) Andrew Mangiapane will get a bigger role next season and (b) the Flames will be getting someone back for Tkachuk probably, this doesn’t seem as bad as it seems at first glance.

Points and goals

Gaudreau led the NHL in five-on-five points with 72, while Tkachuk was third with 64. They each had 26 goals at five-on-five, tied for fourth in the NHL.
Gaudreau was second in the NHL in overall points with 115, while Tkachuk was eighth with 104. Tkachuk was tied for ninth in goals with 42, while Gaudreau was 15th with 40.
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Gaudreau and Tkachuk combined for game-winning goals in 15 of the Flames’ 50 wins.
For their efforts, Gaudreau was voted a First-Team All-Star and Tkachuk a Second-Team All-Star, meaning that according to Professional Hockey Writers Association voters, the Flames had two of the four best wingers in the NHL on their roster last season (and won’t anymore).

Goals and wins above replacement

Over at Evolving-Hockey, they use a goals above replacement model to evaluate player impacts. Gaudreau was worth 31.2 goals above replacement and Tkachuk 23.8, which translate within their model to 5.5 wins for Gaudreau and 4.2 for Tkachuk. Gaudreau was second in the NHL in the model in terms of value, while Tkachuk was seventh.
So fundamentally-speaking, if the Flames replace Gaudreau and Tkachuk with two replacement level NHLers – essentially two Brett Ritchie level players – then the Flames will lose out on 9.7 wins based on Gaudreau and Tkachuk’s impacts last season.
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But, and this needs to be stressed, the Flames will probably get somebody of value back for Tkachuk in whatever form that trade takes. And Mangiapane’s role within the club will probably expand, which will also make up for these lost goals (and wins) above replacement. So the Flames will probably be worse without Gaudreau and Tkachuk – how could they not be? – but it’ll probably end up being the Flames playing a lot more close games and trying to grind out wins more often, rather than having the extra goal per game that Gaudreau and Tkachuk combined for.
We’ll revisit this math when the Flames have concluded their substantial off-season business.

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