Tkachuk Signs One-Year Contract and other NHL Notables

June 22, 2009

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Jeff Ponder

Tkachuk Signs One-Year Contract and other NHL Notables

St. Louis Blues President John Davidson announced Friday that forward Keith Tkachuk has agreed to return to the club for one more year.  The Blues and Tkachuk have been having talks about a return since being ousted from the playoffs in April.  The deal is reportedly worth $2.15 million.

“Keith is a veteran leader who played a key role with our club’s success this past season,” Davidson added. “He and his wife Chantal are first class people and have been tremendous to the St. Louis Blues organization and the St. Louis community.”

Tkachuk tallied 25 goals and 24 assists in 79 games in 2008-09, along with 14 power-play goals that placed him second on the team just behind Brad Boyes.  He started the season red hot though, scoring 7 goals in the Blues' first 6 games of the season.  He was also the only Blue to participate in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game, which saw him score the first goal of the game.  His point totals have trailed off in his eight seasons in a Blues jersey, considering in 2001-02 Tkachuk netted 38 goals and 75 points.  Scoring is not what Tkachuk was brought back for though.

Tkachuk has come a long way from his days of scoring 40-50 goals with the Phoenix Coyotes and Winnipeg Jets franchise.  Not only is he still widely known as a hitter and a mule in front of the net, but he has added much depth to his game.  Tkachuk spent a good portion of 2009 as a third line center, usually between the likes of gritty wingers Dan Hinote and Brad Winchester.  When Tkachuk was on these checking lines, there was always a chance that a puck would cross the opposing red goal line.  But his strength came in when he would forecheck and pressure the other team's defenses.  Growing a little older, Tkachuk learned to adapt his game and still be a presence even though he cannot score 40 goals in a season anymore.

The problem the Blues are facing now is that Hinote and Winchester are free-agents.  If those two remain unsigned, who can Tkachuk play with and still remain effective?  With Paul Kariya expected to make a full recovery and play on one of the top two lines next season, Alex Steen will most likely be bumped to more of a checking role.  Not only did Steen prove to be a strong penalty-killer last season, but he excelled in passing and stick-handling.  If Steen can make some things happen, these two players could prove to be 2/3 of a strong third line.

Tkachuk has been a winger for most of his career as well, so putting him on Jay McClement's line may not be a bad idea either.  Jay had a fantastic year defensively for St. Louis last season.  He also added some big goals when needed during the Blues' long run for the playoffs so placing these two veterans on the same line may not be a bad idea.

The Blues have a plethora of young talent and they need the veterans to step up and help along their progress.  Tkachuk has proven that he is a leader and a smart veteran through the years and the Blues could think of no one better to help further this developing process.

Thoughts to Ponder:

Everyone saw it coming that GM Darryl Sutter wanted to hire his brother Brent Sutter as coach of his Flames in the upcoming season.  Darryl fired former head coach Mike Keenan on May 23rd after Keenan lost in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight year.  Darryl later said that he was “the best candidate” to coach his team and all other good candidates were already snatched up by current teams.  Brent Sutter then announced he was leaving the New Jersey Devils earlier this month because he wanted to be closer to his family in Red Deer, Alberta.  Coincidence?  Brent still has one year left on his contract with New Jersey, but it is reported that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello granted him the permission to speak with his brother about the coaching vacancy in Calgary.  How will those family get-togethers be affected when Darryl Sutter has to fire his brother if he cannot get the Flames past the first round in 2010?

National Hockey League Players Association director of player affairs Glen Healy announced Friday that he was unaware of the NHL's desire to have a doubleheader outdoor game in Calgary next season.  Supposedly the NHL has already had discussions with Calgary officials to start setting plans on the games, but the NHLPA has not been notified.  Healy says that he is upset with the lack of communication between the NHL and NHLPA.  '”We have never been approached by the league about a second outdoor game ever in Calgary,” stated Healy, “and if they want to approach us, then our numbers are in the book,”  How far did the NHL plan on getting with a doubleheader game before it talked to the Players Association about it?

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