Calgary Flames

Flames Sunday Census: Thoughts on the Jonathan Huberdeau contract

The biggest news of the hockey world this week involved the Calgary Flames and their star forward Jonathan Huberdeau. After being acquired in the biggest blockbuster trade of the summer, the winger is now signed with the Calgary Flames on a franchise record deal.

With any contract as gargantuan as Huberdeau’s, there will inevitably be tons of fanfare, mixed emotions, and even reservations. How do most people feel about the contract? We asked, you answered.

The biggest contract in Flames franchise history

The Huberdeau contract is a franchise-first eight-year contract, worth a franchise-record $84M. What a deal for the superstar. The contract retains Huberdeau’s services through to 2030–31 as he still has one season remaining on his current contract. This makes him the first NHL player to be signed to a contract over the 2030–31 season. To say he’ll be a Flame for a long time to come is an understatement.

So with the length and dollar value of the contract, what’s seen as good versus bad? Let’s see how the poll broke down.

The right contract for the right guy

Almost half of the voters believed both the term and salary of Huberdeau’s contract to both be worthy of the thumbs up. In the hockey world, it’s hard to find good players, and it’s even harder to convince them to stay. After two of the Flames’ biggest stars in Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk departed in the same offseason, the Flames know all too well how devastating it is to see the fabric of a franchise being shredded to pieces.

Enter Huberdeau. Of course, Huberdeau had wanted a long-term extension with the Florida Panthers prior to the trade, but he was effectively blindsided by being traded away. Hockey is a business and he was the transaction.

He then went and expressed his openness to sign long-term in Calgary just a few days after he was shocked by the trade, and then a few short days after that he literally put money where his mouth is and put pen on paper to sign the contract.

It’ll take a few days to fully process the contract, and it’ll take much longer (in the range of a few years) to see how he performs. But right now in the immediate future, this was the right contract to give to the right player.

Huberdeau’s salary

Now, he comes to the Flames without ever stepping onto the ice in the Saddledome as a home player, and already knows he wants to stay a Flame for the foreseeable future. For a player of Huberdeau’s calibre, it’s reasonable to be comfortable giving him a blank cheque.

The Flames were also willing to give Gaudreau this exact contract a few short weeks ago, and when that information is public, it does end up giving Huberdeau all the more leverage. After all, Huberdeau is about as one-for-one of a replacement for Gaudreau as possible, and the Flames even landing the long-time Panther at all is a huge win.

While the average annual value (AAV) of $10.5M makes it the richest AAV in franchise history, his contract is approximately 12.73% of the $82.5M salary cap. That’s a fairly big number, except it won’t even be accurate.

That cap hit doesn’t come into play until 2023–24, and by the NHL’s estimates, the salary cap could increase to $83.5M, which would make Huberdeau’s cap hit worth a lower 12.57%. While it seems like a trivial change, having the flexibility of an added $1M on the salary cap gives all teams more flexibility, and the large contracts become less of a concern.

There’s going to be more salary cap increases over the years too, as current estimates only go to the 2024–25 season. It’s reasonable to expect more increases to happen during Huberdeau’s time in Calgary.

Huberdeau’s term

As for the length, it’s not just about the overall performance over the years of the contract, it’s also about the message it sends to other players around the league that Calgary is rightfully a destination worth playing for and living in.

Huberdeau’s also in his prime right now and the Flames are coincidentally in win-now mode. The on-ice impact he can bring in the next few years will be worth it even if he does decline in the latter half of his contract.

Not to mention, the type of player Huberdeau is suggests longevity in his career isn’t out of the question at all:

Should he pan out as a similar type of player, concerns about the term should be mitigated if he’s able to sustain his performance as a slower rate of decline.

And if he somehow does drop off a cliff, the Flames do have some flexibility in trading him in the final two years of his contract. Huberdeau will have a 12-team modified no-trade clause in 2029–30 and 2030–31.

Who knows where the Flames will be at that point—will they be contenders for the Stanley Cup or looking at rebuilding? It’s way too far in the future to even begin to hazard a guess, which means that some added flexibility in the contract in its tail end makes it more digestible too.

Huberdeau is set to play the majority of his career with the Flames. Having played 671 games with the Panthers so far, nine healthy seasons with the Flames would put him at 738 games. Only time will tell how the contract pans out, but he has a real case for being a better Flame than he was a Panther.

Good times ahead

There’s plenty of reasons to be elated as a Flames fan right now. Seeing Huberdeau sign the extension was an instant rush of serotonin for many, and if we’re being honest, that serotonin is sustained—there’s still happiness all around in the Flames hockey world.

While there are rightful concerns about the term and salary, those concerns can go away once Huberdeau hits the ice. The fact of the matter is Huberdeau showed the Flames that he’s committed to the team well beyond expectations, and hearing that from a superstar like him—that alone is worth every dollar.

How are you feeling about Huberdeau’s contract? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @wincolumnCGY.

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