Matthew Tkachuk needs to maintain proper conditioning if the restricted free agent is away from Calgary Flames training camp to avoid being sluggish when the forward does return, teammate Johnny Gaudreau said Friday.
Gaudreau was drawing on his experience from 2016, when he missed training camp as a restricted free agent before signing a six-year contract with the Flames on Oct. 10, two days before they opened the season.
"I think the biggest advice ... you've got to stick up with the skates because when I got back, [I] kind of felt a little sluggish after sitting out most of training camp and not skating with NHL guys," Gaudreau told TSN in comments published Friday. "It's difficult to jump right back in the pace when guys are at training camp for three weeks. So you've got to stick with the skates, the workouts and ... hopefully it gets done soon. If not, it's part of the business side of the game."
Gaudreau started the 2016-17 season slowly with two goals in 14 games and the forward finished with 18 goals and 61 points in 72 games. The goals and points are his fewest in his five full NHL seasons.
"I talk to [Matthew] all the time," Gaudreau said. "I was in the same shoes as him [three] years ago. It's tough, but hopefully they get it done as quick as possible and we get to see him here soon."
Tkachuk is among a group of high-profile restricted free agents who remain unsigned, including forwards Mitchell Marner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Patrik Laine and Kyle Connor of the Winnipeg Jets, Brock Boeser of the Vancouver Canucks, Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Mikko Rantanen of the Colorado Avalanche, and defensemen Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins, Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers and Zach Werenski of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Tkachuk had 77 points (34 goals, 43 assists) last season, his third in the NHL, and has 174 points (71 goals, 103 assists) in 224 games since being selected No. 6 by the Flames in the 2016 NHL Draft.
Flames general manager Brad Treliving told the Calgary Sun on Wednesday he was hopeful the 21-year-old will sign before training camp opens Sept. 12.
"We need both sides to feel comfortable in the deal, and that's sort of what we're working through right now," Treliving told the newspaper. "… We want him here. My mind isn't even on the possibility that he's not going to be here. But, if he's not, you carry on."