On Matthew Tkachuk and Mikael Backlund
September 4, 2017, 2:13 PM ET [13 Comments]
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1) Matthew Tkachuk's rookie season went as well as anyone could have imagined.
He piled up 48 points, posted spectacular underlying numbers -- the Flames were much better with him on the ice than without -- and was far from a passenger on one of the best lines in hockey.
The one aspect of his rookie year that's been nitpicked a little is his goal total (13). In short, some were left wanting more from a guy who played in the top-6 and was a regular on the power play.
While I expect he'll pot a few more goals as he develops further, I don't think he'll ever be a big goal scorer at the NHL level.
He has some touch, obviously, but playmaking is his best attribute and history suggests it's no coincidence the vast majority of his points in 2016-17 were helpers.
2) I'm really interested to see what happens with Mikael Backlund over the next year.
He's set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and, after outperforming his current contract, you can bet he'll be looking for a big raise.
Backlund is an integral part of the Flames, and losing him would be a big blow to the team's chances of contending over the next few years, but re-signing him may not be a no-brainer.
He's not exactly on the cusp of a huge decline, but he'll turn 30 during the 2018-19 campaign. Generally, it doesn't work out too well for teams when they pay a premium for players well into their 30s and, if Backlund has another strong year, that'd undoubtedly be the cost of doing business.
The Flames better hope Sam Bennett takes a big step forward next season because they may just need him to step into the 2-hole a year from now.
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