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Just when you thought it was safe to turn off your Hockey Alerts, it happens.
The Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers came together to pull off a good old-fashioned blockbuster Friday night trade that set the NHL in turmoil on a midsummer weekend.
Tkachuk’s days in southern Alberta seemed numbered since teammate Johnny Gaudreau left as a free agent, and AthleticismJeremy Rutherford and Hailey Salvian reported this week that Tkachuk told the Flames he had no interest in staying with the organization after next season when he became a free agent.
Given this ominous deadline, Flames general manager Brad Treliving got to work on a proper Plan B that would return assets to a departing star and simultaneously keep his team one to watch for the impending 2022-23 season.
The B/R hockey team answered the late night call and met to discuss the trade to compile a final set of winners and losers. Scroll down to see what we found, and feel free to leave a thought or two in the comments.
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Say what you love about Brad Treliving.
But don’t say it’s not resilient.
The Calgary general manager had as horrible a week as an NHL executive could have losing Gaudreau and learning that Tkachuk had no intention of making Alberta a long-term home, but he did. still managed to turn it into something that will feel like a positive come October.
Not only did he rid the locker room of a guy who didn’t want to be there anymore, but he managed to offload him and get two valuable pieces for 2022-23 – a 115-point scorer and a first-pairing defenseman – under the form of Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, not to mention a useful prospect (Cole Schwindt) and a first-round pick in the 2025 draft.
The presence of Huberdeau and Weegar will help the Flames maintain their relevance in the Pacific Division through next season, and if it looks like they might follow Tkachuk’s lead and want to leave town when the final year of their existing agreements will be exhausted, he may return them at the trading deadline for more future assets.
It wasn’t an ideal scenario by anyone’s measure, but kudos to Treliving for making the most of it.
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When it comes to the Panthers, however, it’s not that simple.
The key takeaway with Tkachuk is that Florida acquired a prolific 24-year-old player and immediately signed him to an eight-year deal that will make him a franchise staple.
GM Bill Zito is nothing if not all-in.
But the profit made for the expenses paid seems a bit unbalanced.
Giving away Huberdeau, Weegar and the others for eight years from Tkachuk is one thing, but considering the outlay Zito made at last March’s trade deadline for impending UFAs Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot – none of that. them didn’t sign again at the end of the season – it’s starting to look a bit one-sided in the wrong direction.
Getting those two for the final weeks of the regular season and an 11-game playoff streak has already cost former top-10 pick Owen Tippett, first-round picks in 2023 and 2024, a third-round pick in 2024 and another hope. So unless Tkachuk’s arrival brings a championship sooner rather than later, it will look like asset management is the big loser in the long run.
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Executives and organizations are one thing.
But if there’s one part of it all that unquestionably wakes up happier today than yesterday, it’s Tkachuk himself.
On Friday morning he was a disgruntled player about to enter the final year of his contract amid huge uncertainty. Saturday morning, he became a franchise player in a team coming out of a Presidents’ Trophy season, and a richer season.
The Panthers capped Friday’s blockbuster by signing their newly acquired asset to an eight-year contract extension worth $9.5 million a year through 2029-30. He had earned $7 million per season the past three and entered the summer as a restricted free agent before Calgary made a one-year qualifying bid for $9 million.
At 24 and after his best statistical season, the left-winger joins Florida center and captain Aleksander Barkov, who formed a deadly 2021-22 duo with Huberdeau, also a left-winger, who had 69 goals and 134 assists between them.
The Panthers won eight more games and finished 11 points ahead of Calgary in the league standings, and when you combine that with all the other bells and whistles a South Florida professional athlete has to offer, Tkachuk unquestionably traded.
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He’s a long way from a town he wanted to leave, and he’s made extra money doing it.
But competitively, Tkachuk went from a Pacific Division fry pan to an Atlantic Division fire.
He and the Panthers will battle it out for seeding almost every night in divisional play thanks to the presence of three other 100-point teams from last season, not to mention two other teams (Ottawa and Detroit) whose off-season moves received rave reviews.
And the Buffalo Sabres, of which many observers expect great things in the future.
Florida finished seven points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs and 12 ahead of the Tampa Bay Lightning, who embarked on a memorable first-round playoff series that Tampa Bay ultimately won in seven games before advancing to a third. consecutive Stanley Cup final.
Defending MVP and 60-goal scorer Auston Matthews should ensure the Maple Leafs remain relevant for 2022-23, the Lightning have done well to mitigate free agency losses and stay strong and the Boston Bruins are also an annual factor in the tournament.
One thing is for sure, if the Panthers repeat themselves as the top dogs in the division next season, they will undoubtedly have earned it.