NHL Notebook: Is Matthew Tkachuk the NHL’s second best player and NHL’s salary spending at largest gap ever and more

Photo credit:David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports
Zach Laing
7 months ago
We all know that Connor McDavid is the best player in the NHL.
He’s having a record-setting season posting numbers we haven’t seen since the early 1990’s and will surely hit the 150-point mark this season. But behind him, who is the second-best player in hockey?
Daily Faceoff’s Matt Larkin and Steven Ellis spoke about it today on the Daily Faceoff Show Live and detailed why they feel it’s Matthew Tkachuk:
Matt Larkin: Tkachuk has been absolutely dominant. He has 30 points more than his next closest teammate, and that’s why I do believe Matthew Tkachuk should and will get serious Hart Trophy votes, maybe second or third place, he’s very similar to Taylor Hall in the year he won it in 2017-18.
But the dominance of Tkachuk, I don’t think people understand, it’s not just a second straight 105 point season. In terms of the scoring chances, the margin of when Tkachuk is on the ice at 5-on-5, it’s 797-497. That’s how much the ice tilts in Florida’s favour with Tkachuk out there.
So, do you agree with me? Am I being too hyperbolic when I say that Matthew Tkachuk is playing like the second best player in the world right now?
Steven Ellis: So, when you first mentioned that earlier today, I laughed. I just thought there’s no way. And then I was going through the numbers, and going through everything, and I just couldn’t come up with someone better, to be honest. I feel like last week we were talking about how good Mitch Marner was, but he’s not doing what Matthew Tkachuk’s been able to do.
He’s been getting back-to-back 100 point seasons on different teams with different linemates, and in this case he’s doing it on a team that had to really claw their way back to the playoff race. I’ll give you credit, you brought it up a few weeks or even a few months ago saying that you predicted the Panthers were going to make a run to make the playoffs, and they were out of the playoffs at that time, and now it’s looking like a pretty good bet.
I have to give a lot of credit to Alex Lyon and the way he’s playing in net for Florida right now. I think the biggest downfall for this group is goaltending on a night-to-night basis, but they’re getting it out of a guy that really should have been their third goalie this year, so that’s a really good thing to see.
But Tkachuk just does it all. A guy that can be so good out of each zone, but also gets physical. If I had a favourite player, it probably would be him, because I like those guys that can be that agitator that can get in your head, but can also make up for it in offense. He’s not like he’s just there to make you mad. He can make you mad, and then he can also score a hat trick against you. So, I think when it comes to Tkachuk, I can’t disagree there.

Spending gap widens

An interesting report from Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli on Friday as the NHL’s salary spending has widen to its largest margins in history.
Right near the top of the list? The Edmonton Oilers, who are spending $99,755,385 this season — the fourth highest in the league behind the Vegas Golden Knights ($101,250,327), Montreal Canadiens ($103,870,005) and Tampa Bay Lightning ($104,239,564).
Here’s some of what Seravalli wrote: 
As you can see, there is a cyclical nature with budgeting relative to each franchise’s competitive cycle. The deep-pocketed Blackhawks are not a big spender as they’re in the throes of a rebuild. The Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings are just beginning to ratchet up their salary expenditure as their rebuilds near completion.
Of note: the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche ranked 31st in signing bonus money spent, one of only two teams under $1 million. That will change in a big way this summer as Nathan MacKinnon’s massive new contract kicks in with a whopping $15.73 million due in signing bonus. MacKinnon’s contract alone will account for more signing bonus money spent than 17 other teams.
On-ice salary expenditure is just one example of the gap between the NHL’s haves and have-nots. Staff sizes and off-ice expenses, ranging from travel and hotels to meals and equipment, are another. Daily Faceoff charted the front office construction of all 32 teams. The average hockey operations staff size was 34; most teams were in very similar ranges of two assistant GMs, seven coaches, three analytics staffers, 12 amateur scouts and four pro scouts.
Nonetheless, over a four-year period, the Leafs and Lightning have spent at least $115 million more than the Senators and Coyotes. We’ve known that the NHL has a clear line drawn between the spenders and penny pinchers, but to see the raw numbers adds eye-popping context that has never before been publicized.
One thing is also abundantly clear: the global pandemic has been bad for players’ bank accounts. Despite the salary cap remaining flat at $81.5 million before increasing $1 million this season, total player wage expenditure has decreased in each of the three seasons since the NHL went on pause in March 2020.

Zach Laing is the Nation Network’s news director and senior columnist. He can be followed on Twitter at @zjlaing, or reached by email at zach@thenationnetwork.com.

Check out these posts...