Blues forward Keith Tkachuk has worn the BlueNote through good times and bad and wants to help the team earn its first Stanley Cup (Getty Images).
With a taste of the playoffs, Keith Tkachuk is ready for more.
Just over a year ago, Tkachuk hinted he was considering retirement. But now that he has helped the Blues reach the playoffs again for the first time since 2004, he says he wants to return to chase the one thing that’s eluded him his entire career: the Stanley Cup.
“Hopefully, one of these days I’ll sit down with (Blues General Manager) Larry (Pleau) and see if they are interested in having me back,” Tkachuk said shortly after the season ended. “We’ve come a long way over the last couple years and I want to be part of that next big step. Hopefully we challenge for the Stanley Cup next year.”
Coming off a season that saw him score 25 goals and 24 assists in 79 games, Tkachuk says he still has one year of good hockey left. At 37, he knows his opportunities to win a championship are becoming limited, but he also knows the Blues are "real close" to being a legitimate contender. That’s why he would be willing to accept a third or fourth line role if it meant staying in St. Louis.
“I realize I’m getting older and I’m going to have to challenge the coach to keep playing me,” he said. “Knowing I have to let some of these other kids play, I understand that and I have no problems with that. I’m going to have to play center if I want to come back here, probably have to play on the third or fourth line, but that’s okay with me.
“As long as we win, I don’t care.”
For a guy who has reached plenty of individual milestones, including 500 goals, 1,000 points, 1,000 games played and 5 All-Star appearances, Tkachuk has developed a team-first mentality that is winning him big points with teammates and management. That’s why at this season’s trade deadline, the Blues opted to keep him around.
“I can tell you this, if we had traded (Tkachuk) for a really important draft pick, we would not have made the playoffs in my opinion,” said Blues President John Davidson. “He was a great leader in our room all year. He was very good as a person that was a conduit between our players and our coaching staff.
“He was a warrior. I’m very satisfied (with him)," added Davidson. "This season, there’s not one ounce of negativity from my mouth about him and the way he played, the way he treated himself, the way he treated the team, the way he carried himself…it was awesome.”
Tkachuk will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, meaning if the Blues do not offer him a contract before that date, any team could make an offer to obtain his services.
“I think everyone hopes (he’s back),” said forward Brad Boyes. “(Tkachuk) was our leader in experience on the ice and off the ice, too. He says the right things at the right times. Guys listen to him and it’s tough to get guys like that.”
Tkachuk was first acquired by the Blues in 2001 in a trade that sent Michal Handzus, Ladislav Nagy and Jeff Taffe to Phoenix. Just a year earlier, the Blues had won the President’s Trophy as the team with the best record during the regular season but suffered a quick playoff exit in the first round. After acquiring Tkachuk, the Blues made it to the Western Conference Finals in 2001.
Tkachuk has worn the BlueNote during good times, and he’s worn it during the bad times that saw the team finish last in the standings. This year, he was part of a team that is helping the Blues to find those good times again.
“I love being around the guys. I love being around and I’m not ready to let that go yet,” Tkachuk said. “I want the Stanley Cup, no question about it, and I know we have a chance to do it next year.”