There’s nothing that a St. Louis sports fan loves more than one of the city’s teams signing a native son to a contract. If that native son’s dad also played for the team, even better - see the Paul Stastny red carpet rollout of 2014 that ended in Stastny being the sacrificial lamb at 2018’s trade deadline.
Right now, the two players Blues fans are fixated on are Brady and Matthew Tkachuk. Brady doesn’t look like he’ll be leaving the Ottawa Senators any time soon, but Matthew’s been long rumored to want out of Calgary. The team elected to take the RFA to salary arbitration to retain his rights, and news broke today that Tkachuk has told the team that he does not plan on returning. This means that Calgary general manager Brad Treliving will either have to deal Tkachuk before the hearing or sign Tkachuk and trade that contract afterwards.
Either will come with a steep price - the all-star forward finished last season with 42 goals and 62 assists. His $7,000,000 current deal is expected to rise into the ballpark of around $9 million, and his trade return potential is limited by the fact that he controls what cities he’ll entertain being traded to.
One of those teams, according to Jeremy Rutherford, is the Blues. There’s no question that he’d like to return home, and even less of a question of if the Blues and their fans want to see Tkachuk return. It’s not going to be an easy deal to swing. As of right now, the Blues have just $625,000 in cap space, meaning that the team would have to send salary back to Calgary. The rumored trade proposal of Jordan Kyrou, Torey Krug, and a first rounder to the Flames for Tkachuk was debunked by Jeremy Rutherford.
[Jeremy Rutherford] " [I] do hear things, like the Blues trying to put together a package of Jordan Kyrou, Torey Krug and a first round draft pick. Those types of packages to get a deal for M.Tkachuk. Was the deal accepted [by Calgary]? No because the deal wasn't made, but [I] hear things like that. from hockey
That deal was so readily accepted on social media as something that the Blues would offer because a) Krug has been rumored as trade bait before b) it would clear $9.3 million off of the books and c) Kyrou’s up for an extension next year anyway so the Blues will be dropping cash either now or later for one player or another.
A trade isn’t going to be that easy for Doug Armstrong to pull off. Do the Blues ship out a key piece of the future makeup of the team for Tkachuk? Are they willing to trade a piece that they possibly consider part of the win-now makeup of the team in Krug?
Other than Krug and Kyrou, the Blues could have Scott Perunovich and Jake Neighbours - and maybe Zachary Bolduc - on the trade block, but again that offers up the decision of dealing potential future franchise players for a long term deal for Tkachuk.
Haley Salvian of The Athletic (subscription required) posits that Pavel Buchnevich could be dealt for Tkachuk. This could be difficult to stomach considering Buchnevich is, as Salvian points out, in the prime of his career and signed to a $5.8 million contract that is a positive bargain for the Blues. A deal involving one of their best forwards heading to Calgary, much like a deal involving Kyrou, would also need some pot-sweeteners and it could possibly boil down to both Krug and Perunovich being attached to Buchnevich to free up space. That deal would make the Blues’ defense actively worse. They relied on scoring last season to make up for a defense that could be average at best, but losing Perron and Buchnevich in one off-season, even with Tkachuk a return, would be a blow.
If the Blues want Tkachuk’s numbers to be like they were last season, they need to still have forwards for him to play with. Robert Thomas and Pavel Buchnevich would be the perfect two forwards.
Even if the NHL’s salary cap does increase by a million or two dollars next season, the Blues will need cap space to re-sign Jordan Kyrou (if not dealt for Tkachuk), Ivan Barbashev, Ryan O’Reilly, and potentially Vladimir Tarasenko if he so decides that he wants to stay. Signing Matthew Tkachuk makes that near impossible; as it stands right now it’s fairly close to an impossibility unless Tarasenko tests the market.
For the price of adding 30-40 goals, the Blues could lose that many in a trade involving either Kyrou or Buchnevich - and then go on to lose Tarasenko and Barbashev’s goal output the next off-season too. In the long run, if the Blues trade Buchnevich as part of a deal for Tkachuk, and Tarasenko (again, if he wants to re-sign here), Barbashev, and Buchnevich maintain last season’s production in the new season, that could be up to 90 goals lost and between 30-40 goals added. Again, that doesn’t even take into consideration the loss of Perron’s goals this off-season. The Blues’ offense could easily go from explosive to being carried by one or two forwards within the span of two offseasons.
That’s only looking at the forward group - does the defense, as it’s constructed now, need to lose either Torey Krug or Scott Perunovich, or perhaps both as part of a package? Could the Blues withstand selling the farm for a hometown hero, or would it cause their playoff window to close faster than it already is?