Wow. This was very unexpected news from the Calgary Flames! The imminent trade of Matthew Tkachuk turned from a very possible losing trade to one where it made a lot of sense for both teams involved. The result of the trade made shockwaves in the hockey world, so let’s break down this massive trade and everything involved, because this is huge.
We knew that Tkachuk was going to be traded before his arbitration hearing on August 11, as he did not want to re-sign on a long-term deal with the Flames. With that information, no one was sure what the deal was going to look like, as the Flames were not dealing from a position of strength.
However, the deal that general manager Brad Treliving pulled off last night has the potential to look extremely good or extremely bad, so let’s get into all the details of this deal first:
The full trade is as follows:
The Calgary Flames receive:
- LW Jonathan Huberdeau
- LD/RD MacKenzie Weegar
- RW/C prospect Cole Schwindt
- 2025 conditional first-round pick (top 10 protected)
The Florida Panthers receive:
- LW/RW Matthew Tkachuk, who signed an eight-year, $9.5M average annual value (AAV) extension
- 2025 conditional 4th round (conditions currently unknown)
There are three paths this trade can lead down, but first, a little background on the three players acquired by the Flames:
Former Flame Johnny Gaudreau finished last year with 115 points, tied for second in league scoring. The person who was tied with Gaudreau? Well that was none other than Jonathan Huberdeau, who did so in 80 games (1.44 P/GP). The now 29-year-old Huberdeau was drafted third overall in the 2011 NHL Draft, and has put up 613 points in 671 games in his NHL career.
Huberdeau has one year left on his steal of a contract at $5.9M AAV and will become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) after the 2022–23 season. More on that later. For now, let’s dive into the type of player that Huberdeau is and what makes him so successful.
Looking at the graphic below, courtesy of HockeyViz.com, we can see that Jonathan Huberdeau has been a consistently good offensive player in his career, getting chances from the middle of the ice and in front of the net. His defensive play has never been a strong suit, but if he is added to a Darryl Sutter system, I believe he can become at least average or even above-average, like Johnny Gaudreau last year.
Looking now at the WAR percentile player card from JFreshHockey, we can see similar results to what his isolated 5v5 impact charts above has already told us—Huberdeau is a great offensive player who is an efficient scorer and playmaker, but lacks on the defensive end. As I mentioned previously, coming to a Darryl Sutter system will surely help boost those EV defence totals and Huberdeau should become an even better player.
Now directing our attention to the EV Play-Style Radar Chart created by NHL_Sid, we can see that Huberdeau excels at offensive zone playmaking, rush offence, and puck carrying, while being very good at forechecking and breakout passing. Huberdeau is not a player that is going to play dump and chase, or be a net front presence.
You don’t really want your best players playing dump and chase hockey regardless of their play style. Huberdeau should be a good fit to replace Gaudreau on the top line, with a playmaking ability and offensive characteristics that should fit in well with the Flames.
Before we even start, I just want to say that I really like MacKenzie Weegar—a lot. Weegar is a 28-year-old right shot defenceman who can play both the left and right sides. He has spent a lot of time on the left side of Aaron Ekblad, where the two formed a very good defensive pairing for the Panthers.
Weegar is a defensive defenceman by trade, but has also contributed 36 points in 54 games in 2020–21 (0.667 P/GP) and 44 points in 80 games last season (0.55 P/GP). I would say that Weegar has been one of the most underrated players in the entire league for quite some time, and that is even further proven by the first graphic below.
Weegar has positively contributed to the Panthers offensive zone for years, with a large quantity of chances coming from the left point. The biggest thing I take away from looking at Weegar’s isolated impact is the sea of blue near his own net in the defensive end. That is exactly what teams look for when acquiring a defenceman, and Weegar should fit seamlessly into Darryl Sutter’s system.
As we can see in the WAR percentile player card, Weegar ranks out as one of the best defencemen in the entire league, with the ability to positively contribute in both the offensive and defensive ends. He does take quite a few penalties and isn’t the perfect penalty killer, but could be a good fit to replace the open penalty killing spot leftover from Erik Gudbranson‘s departure.
The Flames did have Gudbranson playing the left side on the first unit penalty kill last season with Chris Tanev, and Weegar is extremely comfortable playing the left side already.
Directing now to the EV Play-Style Radar Chart once again, we can see that Weegar is about as close to a full circle as you can be, which means he is extremely good at a lot of different areas. Weegar excels at breakout passing, rush offence, shutdown, and also puck-moving and offensive zone playmaking. His in-zone defence isn’t rated as highly as other categories, and he isn’t the most physical defenceman, but is as much of a complete player as you can find in today’s game.
A defence pairing of Weegar-Tanev would be seemingly impossible to score on and is going to be a nightmare for opposing team’s top forwards next year. The Flames defence corps of Weegar, Tanev, Hanifin, Andersson, Kylington, Zadorov is likely a top-three group in the entire league, and with Darryl Sutter at the helm, I am extremely excited to see what they can do.
Cole Schwindt is a 6’2″, 182 lbs centre/right wing who was drafted in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft. After lighting up the OHL for three seasons with the Mississauga Steelheads, Schwidt moved up to the AHL for the 2021–22 season. In 72 games with the Panthers’ AHL affiliate the Charlotte Checkers, Schwindt had 19 goals and 21 assists for 40 points (0.563 P/GP).
Scouting reports describe Schwindt as a two-way forward who is able to play multiple forward positions with a keen physical game. The Calgary Flames love their “swiss army knife” players who can fit into a variety of different tasks and roles, and Schwindt certainly fits that bill. There are some issues with his skating, but Schwindt fits a lot of what the Flames look for in a prospect, so it makes sense why they targeted him in this deal.
If he makes the NHL, he could be a solid bottom-six physical/defensive forward, which I would compare to Johan Larsson, who I like very much.
Both Huberdeau and Weegar need to re-sign
Both Huberdeau and Weegar will need big raises next offseason, and if they decide to stay and re-sign long-term, the Flames will have the cap space available. Both Sean Monahan ($6.375M AAV) and Milan Lucic ($5.25M AAV) are also UFAs this coming offseason, so that will free up $11.625M in cap space.
Assuming Huberdeau will likely get around a $4.5M AAV boost on his next deal, and Weegar will get a boost of around $4M AAV, the Flames are in a position where they can meet those demands and still have plenty of wiggle room to improve their roster.
Huberdeau and Weegar will be 30 and 29 years old, respectively, when their new deals will kick in, and there is some risk in giving long-term deals to players in that age range, I don’t think either player is set to have a major decline in their play anytime soon.
If the Flames can re-sign both players to deals beyond this season, this trade is a definite win for the Flames, simple as that. I haven’t even mentioned Cole Schwidt or the 2025 first-round pick, which would be added extra gravy.
Trade Huberdeau and Weegar this offseason or at the deadline
Who knows what else Brad Treliving has up his sleeve. I mean we all thought Tkachuk was going to St. Louis or Florida, so what does Treliving have planned next? Maybe Treliving and co. have decided on a rebuild/retool and are going to immediately flip Huberdeau and Weegar in separate deals for a massive pile of futures.
Maybe you ride it out until the deadline and if one or both don’t sound like they’ll be re-signing, you trade them then. Huberdeau and Weegar would likely both fetch a first-round pick and a prospect/young player at the deadline, so you could theoretically turn Matthew Tkachuk into three first-round picks and three roster players, which is a fantastic return if they go down this route.
It’s anyone’s guess really, but if the Flames trade both players for a massive pile of futures and those futures hit, this deal could look like an incredible deal years down the line, even if neither player commits to re-signing long-term this offseason.
Both Huberdeau and Weegar walk in free agency
As mentioned before, both Huberdeau and Weegar are UFAs at the end of this coming season, and both are in line for huge raises. The Flames have the cap space available to meet those demands right now, but if both players walk for nothing at the end of next season, this trade will be a massive loss.
Cole Schwidt and a 2025 first-round pick are gravy if the Flames re-sign both Weegar and Huberdeau. If they don’t, Cole Schwidt and a 2025 first as the return for Matthew Tkachuk is not very good at all, especially since Tkachuk just extended in Florida long-term and the Flames would be left with magic beans.
The Flames can’t let either of these players walk in free agency. It’s either extend or trade. Simple as that.
A massive trade for the Flames and Panthers
This was a complete shocker that no one saw coming, which is super fun! This deal is a choose your own story for the Flames, as there are many paths that this deal can take, and we will most definitely be re-visiting this deal years and years down the line. The NHL is much more fun with blockbuster trades, and it’s even more fun when your team is involved.
Getting both Huberdeau and Weegar added to this Flames team is huge. With both players added, the Flames become a better team today, while also grabbing a potential bottom-six forward in Schwindt and a future first-round pick. Very savvy work from Brad Treliving, as this trade has the potential to pay off in spades, should both players re-sign, and even if they don’t the Flames have time to work on big returns too.
Thanks for your time as a Calgary Flame, Matthew Tkachuk, and have fun in Florida with Sam Bennett!
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire