Matthew Tkachuk would solve a great deal of issues for the Islanders. But general manager Lou Lamoriello trading for the Flames star does not seem likely — mostly because it is hard to see how he could put together a competitive offer and keep his team under the salary cap.
Tkachuk is expected to be dealt sometime before Aug. 11, after reports indicated he won’t sign a long-term extension in Calgary. Otherwise, he will go to arbitration with the Flames, potentially hindering the ability of any team to sign him to an extension once he is traded.
The Islanders already lost out on one star Calgary wing from Tkachuk’s own line this summer, when Johnny Gaudreau chose the Blue Jackets. Lamoriello has said he’d like to make a trade to improve the forward group. Tkachuk, who had a career season in 2021-22 with 104 points (42 goals and 62 assists), would certainly do that.
The problem for the Islanders is twofold: what they can offer and how they’ll be limited by the salary cap.
First, unless there is an appetite for one of the Islanders’ core players, it seems likely Calgary GM Brad Treliving could get a better deal elsewhere. Though everyone is available at the right price, Mathew Barzal, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, Alexander Romanov, Ilya Sorokin and Noah Dobson figure to be close to untouchable unless Barzal has no interest in a long-term extension once his current deal ends in 2023. There is no indication that is the case, and Barzal said on breakup day that he’d like to remain on Long Island for the foreseeable future.
The Blues seem to be at the front of the line for Tkachuk, whose father, Keith, played nine years in St. Louis. GM Doug Armstrong can offer some combination of Jordan Kyrou, Vladimir Tarasenko, the top players from a prospect pool that includes three recent first-round picks and the team’s picks over the next three drafts.
If Lamoriello offers Anthony Beauvillier, Oliver Wahlstrom and some combination of prospects and future picks, it’s hard to see how that would be better. Kyrou’s 75 points in 2021-22 were more than Beauvillier (34) and Wahlstrom (24) had combined. Perhaps someone in Calgary’s front office believes Wahlstrom is a superstar in waiting. Don’t get your hopes up.
If Tkachuk wants to play in St. Louis, that would make it harder for the Islanders. And it does not help matters that the Islanders haven’t made a first-round pick since 2019 — which both limits their prospect pool and makes it harder to part with their 2023 first-rounder.
Then there is the problem of the salary cap. The Islanders still need to sign Dobson, Romanov and Kieffer Bellows to extensions that likely will take up most of their current $11.1 million in cap space. Barzal is also in line for a raise when his contract ends. Tkachuk figures to make more than his $9 million qualifying offer when an extension is eventually signed. This math problem does not have an obvious answer for the Islanders.
Likely, it would require offloading either Josh Bailey or Semyon Varlamov in addition to Beauvillier. Bailey is a career Islander and, after the Max Pacioretty deal, it’s hard to see how Lamoriello could move his $5 million salary without giving up another asset. Lamoriello also reiterated at the draft that he has no appetite for trading Varlamov. Perhaps that was a bluff. Again, do not get your hopes up.
More than likely, the Islanders will be in the same place with Tkachuk as they were with Gaudreau: on the outside looking in.