New Jersey Devils: Matthew Tkachuk Is The Most Obvious Target This Offseason

Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Calgary Flames (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Calgary Flames (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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The New Jersey Devils still have quite a few needs to fill before they should expect to do anything besides compete in the NHL Draft Lottery. This team obviously needs defense, and especially a top-line defenseman to play next to Ty Smith, but it might be easier to get a top-six forward who can grow with Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes. The Devils have some really good young assets, and teams might be looking to unload some disgruntled assets.

The latest disgruntled asset to rear his head is the Calgary Flames’ Matthew Tkachuk. The 23 year old is apparently not happy with his situation with the Flames, and he has a very contentious contract negotiation coming up. He signed a three-year, $21 million contract as a bridge deal in 2019. That deal has one year left on it. While the deal has a cap hit of $7 million, it actually pays him $9 million in salary. That means his qualifying offer is going to be $9 million for one year.

Tkachuk could make this hard and just play on that ridiculous qualifying offer instead of signing a long-term deal. He could do that for two more seasons before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. It is definitely a risk, but it’s a risk that pays him likely $18 million before he hits the open market. With the Flames salary cap situation the way it is, it’s not the most ideal situation.

The Devils are in a much different situation with their cap, so they can live up to Tkachuk’s salary demands. That could make it an intriguing move for him. He brings a hard-nosed attitude the Devils could use next to either Hughes or Hischier. He can also score goals at will. He has a 34-goal season under his belt, but the last two were a little less fruitful. He had 23 goals in 69 goals in 2019-20 (a 27-goal pace) and 16 goals in 56 games this past season (a 23-goal pace).

Obviously, it’s a little concerning he fell off as he did, but there’s a pandemic happening in the world and the Flames have been, excuse the pun, a tire fire.

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The Devils have some interesting wingers to pair with Hughes and Hischier already. Yegor Sharangovich, Janne Kuokkanen, Pavel Zacha, and Jesper Bratt were pretty good in their roles this past year. However, adding someone with a proven track record like Tkachuk is the type of move a team needs to make. Tom Fitzgerald can’t pray that Kuokkanen stays hot or Alexander Holtz and Dawson Mercer both turn into top-six forwards. He has to make moves to bring someone like Tkachuk in.

Fitzgerald has the assets to get someone like Tkachuk. A team like the Los Angeles Kings or New York Rangers, who have a similar prospect pool as the Devils, are focused on players like Jack Eichel this offseason. The Devils are a better fit to meet Tkachuk’s salary demands and put him on a roster that’s going to thrive.