After a tumultuous start to the off-season, the Calgary Flames announced some good news late Thursday night with the signing of newly acquired left-winger Jonathan Huberdeau to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension.
Last season, Calgary was 50-21-11 to take top spot in the Pacific Division and post the franchise’s second-best regular season in five decades. But after being knocked out in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Edmonton Oilers, the bad news continued into the off-season with the departure of star forward Johnny Gaudreau in free agency, who signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Things took another bad turn when star right-winger Matthew Tkachuk informed the team that he would not sign an extension, putting him in a position to leave as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the upcoming season.
Not about to risk losing two-thirds of what was one of the NHL’s top lines last season, without getting something in return, Flames general manager Brad Treliving pulled the trigger July 22 on a blockbuster sign-and-trade deal with Florida that sent Tkachuk — with an eight-year, $76-million US deal agreed to — and a fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Huberdeau, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a first-round pick.
“They traded for me and they wanted me, and they were talking highly about me. You know, when you hear that, you want to play for a team that wants you and that’s why it was so important to me (to sign long term).”
Less than two weeks later, Huberdeau is no longer a year away from free agency, also, after agreeing to the biggest deal in Flames’ franchise history.
The signing comes just a few days after Treliving flew to Montreal to meet Huberdeau in person over dinner, a gesture that was appreciated and influential on the 29-year-old’s decision.
“He didn’t have to do that, we could have had a Zoom or something like that, but I think in person, that’s how you get to know someone better and I appreciated him taking the time to come and see me from Calgary, it’s not a short flight,” said Huberdeau. “We just had a great conversation, and he flew back right after. That made me think that they really care about me and they want me to stay here.”
For Huberdeau, who will be 30 when the contract kicks in, the $10.5-million annual average value is a hefty raise from his current six-year deal that pays him $5.9-million annually. It also concludes a wild stretch for Huberdeau, who had been part of the Panthers organization for 11 years after being selected third overall in the 2011 NHL Draft.
“Emotionally, it’s been a roller-coaster for the past few weeks,” Huberdeau admitted. “Obviously, the shock of the trade, I was a little down, but at the end of the day, you want to look forward in life and that’s what I told myself and my family. It was important to turn the page.”
A leader on and off the ice. <br><br>Thank you, <a href=”https://twitter.com/JonnyHuby11?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@jonnyhuby11</a>. <a href=”https://t.co/Jmq5vdO0bo”>pic.twitter.com/Jmq5vdO0bo</a>
In Calgary, Huberdeau will continue to pursue post-season success, which has mostly eluded him in his pro career so far. In his 10 years with the Panthers, he only made the post-season three times and last year’s second-round exit was the only trip beyond the first round.
It will also be the first time the Montreal native will be playing in a Canadian market since 2012 when he wrapped up his junior hockey career with the Saint John Sea Dogs.
He says his mom and dad can’t wait to head out west and check out his new city.
Coming off a career-best 115-point season in which Huberdeau tied Gaudreau for second in league scoring, the six-foot-one forward is eager to get back at it.
“Just excited to get going,” he said. “Now that the business side is out of it, it’s go win some games.”