Matthew Tkachuk


Flames extend analytics darling Mikael Backlund


Be sure to visit and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

The line of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, and Micheal Ferland (Ferland for now?) probably ranks as the Calgary Flames’ most important forward trio. If you spend a little time on Hockey Twitter, you’ll probably come across someone gushing about “The 3M Line,” maybe more than the bigger guns.

(Aside: I really tried to get a Campbell’s Soup-inspired nickname for that line, but it never took off. Probably for the greater good?)

With the trade deadline looming, the Flames took a big step toward keeping that line intact, signing underrated center Mikael Backlund to a six-year, $32.1 million contract extension. He’ll go from carrying a $3.575M cap hit in the final year of his current deal to $5.35M from 2018-19 through 2023-24.

This keeps “The 3M Line” together through 2018-19, assuming the team doesn’t want to split them up at some point.

The most infamous member of the trio is the least tenured of the three: Matthew Tkachuk will see his rookie contract expire after 2018-19. Michael Frolik, meanwhile, receives $4.3M per season through 2019-20. Tkachuk isn’t likely to go anywhere, mind you, but his inevitable raise could make it tough to keep all three of those puck-hogging forwards on the same roster that also boasts Gaudreau, Monahan, and pricey blueliners like Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton.

Backlund, 28 (soon to be 29 as of March 17), is a solid piece even if you look at his scoring stats alone. The 24th pick of the 2007 NHL Draft is trying to make this his third consecutive 20-goal season, although he’s been limited to 10 in 58 games. (He’s made up the difference with 24 assists.)

If you look at his possession metrics, you’ll see that Backlund consistently tilts the ice in his team’s favor, even with heavy-to-drastic defensive usage.

Ultimately, he brings a nice mix of the subtle stuff that might slip under the radar:

With enough scoring punch that he jumps off the charts even when you’re not, well, looking at charts.

Naturally, this is an expensive contract, so there’s some risk involved. Even so, most seem happy with the deal from the Flames’ end:

If you take a look at their salary structure, there’s really a lot to like in Calgary. Now the Flames need to start putting it all together on the ice.

Once that really starts to build momentum, Backlund could be the sort of player who really makes the difference in a tough playoff series. That’s what the Flames are paying him for, really.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

PHT Morning Skate: A winning day for Hockey Canada; reaction to Benning extension

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at

• Now that the Canadian women have taken top spot in their group, they await the winner of O.A.R./Switzerland, while the U.S. will play the winner of Finland/Sweden in the Olympic semifinals. [NBC Olympics]

• Canada’s men’s side won their opening game with a 5-1 victory over Switzerland. [Hockey Canada]

• Matt Dalton and the Jim Paek’s South Korean squad played inspiring hockey, but ultimately fell 2-1 to the Czech Republic. [IIHF]

• The first goal scored by the unified Korean women’s team was by North Carolina native Randi Griffin. [NBC Olympics]

• Likely top pick in June’s NHL draft, Rasmus Dahlin, was a healthy scratch for Sweden’s opening game win over Norway. [NBC Olympics]

Be sure to visit and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

• The 17-year-old Dahlin could change the way we look at defensemen going forward. [Sporting News]

• A demotion to the third line doesn’t mean David Pastrnak is in Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse. It’s just a simple reminder. [Bruins Daily]

• It’s now Jim Benning’s job to see through to the finish of the Vancouver Canucks’ rebuild. [Sportsnet]

• Now that he has a contract extension, the next move for Benning to make it to re-sign the Sedins. [Canucks Army]

• A look back at Dion Phaneuf‘s time with the Ottawa Senators. [TSN]

• It’s time for the Calgary Flames to hand Matthew Tkachuk an extension. [Flames Nation]

• Wednesday was a pretty fun day for the Vegas Golden Knights. They spent the afternoon training with Cirque du Soleil. [Review-Journal]

• One player helping to power the Pittsburgh Penguins of late? That would be Jake Guentzel. [Tribune-Review]

Justin Williams a.k.a. ‘team grandpa,’ has eyes on bringing the Carolina Hurricanes back to the playoffs. [Sports Illustrated]

• A look at quite an “atrocious” season for Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik. [Japers’ Rink]


Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

The Buzzer: Murray, Hall shine in returns


Player of the Night: Matt Murray, Pittsburgh Penguins

After missing seven games following the passing of his father, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray was back on the ice on Tuesday night and he played what might have been one of his best games of the season. His teammates made sure he got tested early and often, allowing the Sharks to put 42 shots on goal, but Murray was up to the task by turning away 40 of them to help lead the Penguins to a 5-2 win, helping them improve to 9-3-0 in their past 12 games. It has been a tough start to the season for Murray but he has shown over the past two years that nothing really gets to him and he is always capable of getting on a roll. Maybe this could be the start of something for him.

Taylor Hall is back

Murray wasn’t the only player to have a big game in his return to the lineup. Taylor Hall also had a big game for the New Jersey Devils, scoring his 18th goal of the season in the New Jersey Devils’ 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres. His goal goes in the books as the game-winner.

Highlight of the Night

It came in a losing effort, but just take a look at what Matthew Tkachuk did to Marc-Andre Fleury on this play.

That is an awesome looking goal.

Highlight Of The Night Part 2

The Vancouver Canucks are not going to make the playoffs, but they helped keep the Colorado Avalanche from getting an important extra point on Tuesday night with this rocket of a Sven Baertschi shot in overtime.

Factoid Of The Night

A big win for the Carolina Hurricanes to stay in the playoff race. They have Ottawa’s number on home ice.

Factoid Of The Night Part 2

Just because it is worth mentioning again, the Vegas Golden Knights have already tied the wins record for a first-year team. It is not even February yet.


Anaheim Ducks 3, Boston Bruins 1

New Jersey Devils 3, Buffalo Sabres 1

Florida Panthers 4, New York Islanders 1

Pittsburgh Penguins 5, San Jose Sharks 2

Carolina Hurricanes 2, Ottawa Senators 1

Minnesota Wild 3, Columbus Blue Jackets 2

St. Louis Blues 3, Montreal Canadiens 1

Chicago Blackhawks 2, Nashville Predators 1

Winnipeg Jets 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

Los Angeles Kings 3, Dallas Stars 0

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Calgary Flames 2

Vancouver Canucks 4, Colorado Avalanche 3


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes


When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

  • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
  • “Non-traditional franchises.”
  • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.


The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Who do you root for in this fight: Ryan Kesler or Matthew Tkachuk?


One can only guess how many hockey players, fans, and parents have daydreamed about slapping that obnoxious mouthguard out of Matthew Tkachuk‘s mouth. It seems so enticing, too, with that piece of plastic always dangling out of the aggravating sophomore’s mouth.

Similar proportions of hockey people probably want to see Ryan Kesler get punched, too (Ryan Johansen would raise his hand, but he’s in transit), so their Friday fight is a “have your cake and eat it too” moment for many.

The real question is, if you had to choose, which player would you hope would win such a fight? It’s an interesting question for anyone who isn’t a fan of the Anaheim Ducks or Calgary Flames, especially if you don’t leave a blank spot for someone to enter “the meteor” as a write-in candidate.

The Ducks ended up winning the game 2-1.

As a side note, it seems reasonable to assume that Brady Tkachuk enjoyed Friday more than his brother.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.