It's been a rollercoaster of an offseason for Jonathan Huberdeau and his new club, the Calgary Flames.
In an interview with Daily Faceoff's Matt Larkin, Huberdeau talked about his wild summer and shared some insight into the blockbuster trade that sent him to Calgary.
The 29-year-old said he had just wrapped up a game of beer league hockey when Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito rang him up.
“I don’t think he’s calling me for an extension at this time of night,” Huberdeau told his friends.
Zito informed the star forward that he was being shipped to the Flames, along with defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, for young star Matthew Tkachuk, who had informed Calgary's front office he was not interested in signing a long-term deal to stay in Alberta.
The brief call left Huberdeau speechless.
“I didn’t have any words to say back,” he told Daily Faceoff.
Selected by the Panthers with the third-overall pick in 2011, Huberdeau is the franchise leader in games (671), assists (415) and points (613) after a decade in South Florida. He also admitted his connection with the area goes all the way back to his childhood, when his family would escape the harsh winters of Saint-Jerome, Que., and take an RV down to the Sunshine State.
“It was my second home,” Huberdeau said. “My family, we used to spend every Christmas, three weeks, since I was a baby. So I was fortunate to play there for 10 years, and I knew the area before, playing there, living there. It just felt like home.
"The first two weeks after the trade, you think about all that and are a little sad, but then you think, ‘Life goes on,’ and you have to worry about what’s ahead.”
While the life-changing move was still sinking in, Flames GM Brad Treliving flew to Montreal to meet Huberdeau for dinner and laid out his plan for the team after a tumultuous offseason in which they lost franchise cornerstones Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk.
“You want to sign a guy for a lot of years, you haven’t met him, so that was really nice of him to take a plane and come and see me in Montreal and then go right back,” Huberdeau said. “The dinner went well, we got along and I think he wanted to win right now with the moves he made.
"And I think we have a really good team. That excited me. I liked how he wanted to build that team, and that made me want to stay there for a long time.”
The meeting was enough to convince the winger to sign a massive eight-year, $84-million extension to keep him in Calgary for the latter half of his NHL career.
The switch from Florida to hockey-crazed Calgary will be a big one, but Huberdeau seems to be up for the challenge.
“Packed house every night, it’s more of a hockey market, and it’s going to be different but it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it, obviously more media, a little bit more pressure, but I don’t think about this stuff. I’m just going to do my best on the ice, hopefully it goes well, and that’s all I’m thinking of.”
With the additions of Huberdeau, Weegar and top free agent signing Nazem Kadri, the Flames seem poised to contend for the Stanley Cup after a shocking start to the summer. If Huberdeau can replicate his 115-point output from last season, Calgary should be a force to be reckoned with in the 2022-23 season.
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