With the initial shock having finally subsided after learning that they had been traded from the Florida Panthers to Calgary, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar are ready to get started with the Flames.
“It was a big shock for me and my family,” Huberdeau, who had been with the Panthers since they drafted him third overall in 2011, said in a media availability Monday. “Late on Friday night, you don’t think you’re going to get a call, but we did and it’s part of the hockey business.”
Calgary also received forward prospect Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick, in exchange for Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional 2025 fourth-round pick.
After having some time to digest the blockbuster trade, Huberdeau says he’s excited to turn the page.
“It’s a new chapter,” Huberdeau said. “Going through the weekend, I thought about everything, and it’s part of life, and now we’ve just got to go forward and I’m excited to be a Flame and I’m excited to meet the guys and get going in this new city.”
Their initial surprise is understandable, considering both players were such important pieces of Florida’s best season in franchise history. The Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy with an NHL-best regular-season record of 58-18-6.
“I get it’s part of the hockey business and that side of it. But 11 o’clock at night on a Friday? It was a little unexpected,” said Weegar, a seventh-round pick by Florida in 2013.
“We’ve got a lot of emotional ties there, a lot of good buddies, and they treated us well. So, a little emotional, but throughout the weekend, you get more excited.”
With Calgary and Florida both coming off second-round playoffs exits — the Panthers swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Flames were upset 4-1 by the archrival Edmonton Oilers — both teams will look significantly different next season.
Huberdeau, a 29-year-old left winger, finished tied for second in scoring with a career-high 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists). Weegar, a 28-year-old top-pairing defenceman, led the Panthers in total ice time, while putting up a career-best 44 points (eight goals, 36 assists).
Tkachuk, a 24-year-old right winger, is coming off his best season in which he piled up 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists). The trade came nine days after another winger on the Flames’ top line, team leading scorer Johnny Gaudreau, who tied Huberdeau with 115 points, left as a free agent, signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“It’s obviously been an emotional week (in Calgary) with the ups and downs and losing two great players,” Weegar said. “But to have Huby and I come in and get a little bit more excitement around the city again — I don’t think it’s a rebuild either, when you bring in Jonny and I, we’re here to win.”
Tkachuk was dealt after he told general manager Brad Treliving that he was not open to signing long term in Calgary. The same question now applies to Huberdeau and Weegar, who are both one season away from being unrestricted free agents.
“I’m open to staying in Calgary for a long time,” said Huberdeau, who has one year remaining on a six-year deal that carries a cap hit of US$5.9-million.
“They’re the ones that traded for me and that means they want me. You want to play for a team that wants you and that’s all I want.”
A similar sentiment was voiced by Weegar, who is in line for a raise as he wraps up a three-year deal with a cap hit of $3.25-million.
“Are we a winning team? How is the city? How are the teammates? How are the coaches? Those are some of the boxes you check to sign with a team,” the Ottawa native said. “I’ve heard good things about all those things in Calgary.”
They’ll also be playing for a new bench boss in Darryl Sutter, 63, who won the Jack Adams award last for coach of the year after leading Calgary to a 50-21-11 record and top spot in the Pacific Division.
“He obviously has a lot of experience and a great resume, so Huby and I are excited to get to know Darryl on a personal level and obviously learn a lot of things from him,” Weegar said.
While they’ve never met their new head coach, his reputation is well known.
“You know you’ve got to work hard,” Huberdeau said.
Playing their home games north of the border for the first time since turning pro is also something they’re looking forward to.
“Watching you guys in the playoffs and seeing the C of Red,” Weegar said. “And now to be part of it, it’s a really cool feeling. It’s very surreal for myself, obviously Jonny and I being Canadian kids.”
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