In probably the least-surprising news of the week, the Blues announced that they have re-signed veteran forward Keith Tkachuk to a one-year deal today. Tkachuk, who will play in his 18th NHL season in 2009-10 had 25 goals last season for the Note, the 13th time he has scored at least that many in a season. He failed to reach 25 only four times and each of those seasons he played 50 or fewer games.
In 1,134 NHL games Tkachuk has tallied 525 goals and 508 assists (1,033 points). He has played with St. Louis since being acquired at the trade deadline in 2001, excluding a short stint in Atlanta during their playoff run in 2007, totalling 476 games in the Bluenote. Over that time he has added 195 goals and 200 assists (395 points).
The knock on Tkachuk has always been his playoff production, which is a markedly different story than his regular-season scoring prowess. Tkachuk has always scored well in the regular season, whether with Winnipeg/Phoenix or with St. Louis or even in Atlanta (7 goals and 8 assists in 18 games), averaging 0.91 point-per-game over his career. In the second season, however, Tkachuk has hit a wall. In 89 career NHL playoff games, he has scored just 28 goals and 28 assists (56 points), good for a 0.63 points-per-game average, a nearly 30% drop from his regular season average.
But Tkachuk clearly was not re-signed by the Blues in order to anchor the top line and be a top scorer in the playoffs. While that was the role he was expected to play when the Blues nabbed him from the Coyotes in exchange for Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus, Jeff Taffe and the Blues 1st round pick in 2001 (which was used to select Ben Eager), now his role is clearly different.
Tkachuk will be used in the upcoming season just as he was near the end of last season; he'll play third or fourth line minutes most nights and will get time on the powerplay, working down in front of the net. In addition, Tkachuk has clearly become the veteran leadership presence in the locker room. For one, he's got more games played in the Bluenote than any current member of the team (only Barret Jackman joined the franchise before him; drafted in the summer of 2000) and, more importantly, the other players respect and listen to him.
As the trade deadline approached last spring, player after player was quoted in the media on their desire to have Tkachuk stay with the team. When the trade deadline passed without incident, team president John Davidson admitted that they had received calls about No. 7 but that they felt the team was better off keeping him rather than taking on other 'building pieces.' In fact, as the Blues' season ended, Davidson re-iterated the thought that Tkachuk was the backbone of the team, saying that he wasn't worth moving for a high draft pick:
I can tell you this, if we had traded Walt (Tkachuk) for a really important draft pick, we would not have made the playoffs in my opinion. He was a great leader in our room all year. He was very good as a person that was a conduit between our players and our coaching staff. He was a warrior.
As with virtually any move made by team management, this one too will draw its share of critics, but the re-signing seems to be popular within the team's management and with the players on the team. Assuming he continues to be willing to take fewer quality even-strength minutes than he used to earn and can continue to be the leader the team and coaches need, Tkachuk looks to continue to be a big part of this Blues team.