The Calgary Flames are having a rough summer. Johnny Gaudreau decided to leave for the Columbus Blue Jackets despite being offered more money to stay in Canada, and last week Matthew Tkachuk was traded to the Florida Panthers. In return, the Flames received Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar (both free agents by the end of next season), Cole Schwindt, and a 1st-round pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
I had Tkachuk as a trade deadline target for the Nashville Predators last season, even though it was relatively unlikely he would be moved by that point, and it’s unfortunate that David Poile wasn’t able to land him. After the signing of Swiss forward Nino Niederreiter, another top-six forward wasn’t a huge necessity, but getting another true scoring threat to play at the top of the lineup never hurts, especially one with an excellent two-way game like Tkachuk.
However, according to Poile, they checked with the Flames on Tkachuk's availability, but the Predators were not on Tkachuk’s short list of teams he would like to sign long-term with. So, while it would have been great to see a player of his caliber in a navy and gold uniform, it wasn’t meant to be—contrary to other reports mentioning he might have liked to sign in Nashville for the foreseeable future.
So with Tkachuk off the table, what’s next? There are still plenty of players left to pursue. Poile could go the older, more veteran option and chase after Phil Kessel with a short-term, relatively cheap contract. The 34-year-old scored 52 points in 82 games with the Arizona Coyotes in 2021-22, but only 8 of those were goals. The year before in Arizona, he scored 20 goals, though, so his production playing beside a player like Ryan Johansen will most likely be worth the money.
The Predators could also go the younger route and trade for Finnish winger Jesse Puljujarvi, from the Edmonton Oilers, who just signed a 1-year, $1.3 million qualifying offer. While he has had trouble putting the puck in the net, there shouldn’t be any argument about the kind of force he is on the ice. The former 4th-overall selection stands at 6-foot-4 and has both the skating and physical abilities to be an interesting piece in the puzzle.
In this scenario I would be interested to see if Tanner Jeannot gets a promotion to the top six and Puljujarvi slots in with Colton Sissons and Yakov Trenin on the Herd Line. No matter what, he could certainly be a useful forward that may be able to find his footing in a different situation.
Both Kessel and Puljujarvi would be effective middle or even top-six options for a team that should still be looking for a solid piece to add to the forward core. There are an abundance of options still on the market, and both of them would be cost-effective, too.
Because Poile is so focused on the idea of not rebuilding, it’s a good thing to know that he checked in on Tkachuk. If he wasn’t willing to do anything to get a player of that caliber at this point in his tenure, then plenty of questions would be raised from those on the outside. However, that is not the case. The Predators could still use another forward, and now that the Tkachuk saga is over, they can switch their focus to someone else. And as much as Poile may have screwed up over the years, he did all he could before Bill Zito threw out a deal Brad Treliving couldn’t refuse.