NHL trade grades: Panthers get Matthew Tkachuk from Flames for Huberdeau, Weegar and more

NHL trade grades: Panthers get Matthew Tkachuk from Flames for Huberdeau, Weegar and more

The trade

Panthers get: Forward Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round pick

The flames get: Forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, forward Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick

Dom Luszczyszyn: Wow.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

This is a blockbuster in every sense of the word with two absolute superstars going their separate ways.

All year we were told Jonathan Huberdeau was an MVP candidate, but it took several additions for him to be worth an actual MVP candidate: Matthew Tkachuk.

We can argue all day about which player is worth more, but the fact is Tkachuk is younger and has a more complete game – it makes sense that Florida would want him for the future.

At the same time, Huberdeau PLUS Mackenzie Weegar is a bridge too far. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that Tkachuk is the more valuable asset (especially in terms of contract considerations), but adding a legitimate top-pair defenseman is absolutely wild. Calgary, without leverage, did incredibly well here considering the circumstances. Yes, both Huberdeau and Weegar have one year left before unrestricted free agency (UFA) – but together they have more value than Tkachuk alone. Tkachuk’s extension sure helps, but wow. It is much.

That speaks to the value the league shares for all three of Tkachuk, Huberdeau and Weegar. But at the end of the day, Florida got a superstar power forward for eight years, and Calgary got two exceptional players as well. They both did well depending on how you look at it.

Calgary grade: A+
Florida grade: B

Corey Pronman: Huberdeau was one of the best forwards in the NHL last season. He is a player with elite skills, creativity and vision who can run a power play with the best of them. He is a competitive striker whose only real drawbacks are a lack of dangerous top gear and not being overly physical. I don’t think Florida was 100 percent sure they could re-sign Huberdeau, although it was a likely possibility. He was also quite disappointing in last season’s playoffs.

Weegar developed very well with Florida after being a mid-round pick. He is a highly intelligent puck mover with strong mobility and a high motor. He’s a legit top defenseman who, like Huberdeau, is a pending UFA in 2023.

Cole Schwindt is a good-sized forward with some skill and scoring ability and a solid work rate off the puck as well. His skating is his big limitation. He produced a lot offensively this season in the AHL considering he didn’t get any power-play time. He has a good chance to become a bottom-six striker.

Tkachuk is one of the best young stars in the league. He is an extremely skilled and creative winger who also has an elite work rate. He is big around the net front, wins a lot of games and has an edge in his game. His only negative is a lack of true dangerous NHL speed, but everything else about his game is upper echelon. He has a game that works very well in the playoffs as well.

Such a big part of grading this deal will be Calgary’s ability to get either Hubderdeau and Weegar extended. If they can, they’re back in business as a top NHL team for several years, adding two high-end NHL players after losing two in Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. If they don’t, they’re back where they started. I will assume for the sake of this article that they are able to work out extensions for at least one of their two new Canadian stars.

Florida takes care of the pending UFA situations for Huberdeau and Weegar, where they were unlikely to sign both, and is able to turn that into a locked-in, young, elite player. In doing so, they move another first-round pick (you’ll next see the Panthers on the podium in the first round in 2025 or 2026), but they’re clearly all in with this core of players and still look like a Stanley Cup competitor entering the next season.

Today, Calgary improved their team more than Florida did. In the long run, Florida likely improved his club more while staying relevant as a contender.

This is one of the most fascinating trades of the salary cap era and will be dissected for years to come. Points to both clubs for creativity and guts.

Calgary Flames: ONE-
Florida Panthers: B+

Shayna Goldman: I’m really trying to wrap my brain around this. I expected Tkachuk to be traded, but to St. Louis or Dallas. Even Vegas felt possible because the Golden Knights always buy, then dump players later to clean up. But Florida! Hello!

The Panthers saw their “all-in” moves at the deadline and somehow raised it. They bring in an elite winger – legitimately one of the best in the league – and extend him for eight years. The Panthers keep their forward line stacked with a player who gives them more value in the short and long term in Tkachuk. So they’re clearly walking away with that win. Still, Panthers management gave up a ton here and are running thin on assets to handle the rest of Florida’s roster.

The first question I had was where this left Huberdeau and his next deal in a year. Well, that leaves him in Calgary!

The Flames are clearly intent on staying in the playoff picture after losing two of their best forwards. Now Calgary adds another elite passer and an advanced defender. The fact that the former isn’t exactly a defensive pro should be fine in the Flames’ system. If they can’t extend Huberdeau, this would be quite the gamble when they probably could have added players with more certainty elsewhere. But since he’s not the only resource here, that makes it far more palatable. Instead, it’s Weegar, a first-round pick and prospect — certainly a win for the Flames when they didn’t have much leverage after it was determined Tkachuk’s time with the team would be limited.

Calgary grade: ONE
Florida grade: B+

Sean Gentille: We’ve written thousands of words about Tkachuk’s future here over the past few days. Thousands more set to run on Saturday morning had to be scrapped. At no point—not from me, Dom, Hailey Salvian, Jeremy Rutherford, picking a name out of a hat—did anyone put together “Maybe Brad Treliving can win this trade.”

And yet, here we are, in the middle of the night. It turns out that Treliving can win the trade. It turned out that Treliving won the deal. It is a rule of thumb that whoever gets the best player gets the edge. Rules were made to be broken. Tkachuk is better than Huberdeau. Tkachuk is better than Weegar. Tkachuk is better than Schwindt. Tkachuk is certainly better than a conditional first-round pick.

But Tkachuk is no better than the Flames’ full return. And honestly, it might not be that close. That doesn’t mean Florida lost here; Tkachuk immediately signed for less than he could have gotten on the open market for the rest of his prime. That certainly doesn’t mean Tkachuk lost; he’s on a better team, in a state with no income tax. Signing Huberdeau and Weegar was no lock, especially given Florida’s (former) cap situation. Tkachuk is signed, sealed and delivered until he’s well into his 30s.

And Calgary’s dub doesn’t come without problems; Huberdeau, productive as he is, is not a complete player on the level of Tkachuk. He’s a UFA after next season, and whether he stays is an open, very compelling question. The same applies to Weegar – but facts are facts. Huberdeau is a first-line player in the elite class. Weegar is a guy in the first pair. The risk of losing them is worth the possibility of you signing both, especially for Treliving, who seemed to be, shall we say, on the edge of the hot seat. Unreal work. A chance worth taking. Calgary should somehow still be a playoff team.

Calgary grade: A+
Florida grade: B+

Hailey Salvian: Brad Treliving was put in an unenviable position this week – trying to win a trade with a player like Tkachuk walking out the door. But he may have just done that, at least in the short term. Yes, he has to try to keep Huberdeau and Weegar (two UFAs next summer), but with his hands tied and little leverage with Tkachuk, he went out and brought in a legitimate MVP candidate and a top-pair defenseman. Not that anyone has forgotten, but this offseason the Flames also lost Johnny Gaudreau, who finished second in league scoring tied with … Huberdeau. This is the Tkachuk trade, but if the Flames were looking for a playmaking, point-producing winger to fill a hole on the left side, they just got one.

Huberdeau can run the show in Calgary. His defensive impact isn’t huge, but Calgary coach Darryl Sutter has helped in that area before, and he should be able to do so again. On the defensive end, the Flames, under Sutter, pride themselves on limiting chances against and being tough to play against. Adding a solid two-way defender in Weegar should only help with that identity. Not to mention that bolstering the blue line should have been a priority this offseason after the awful showing without Chris Tanev in Round 2 against Edmonton, but that need fell to the to-do list behind Gaudreau and Tkachuk.

This deal should give Calgary at least one more year to try to contend with a core built around Huberdeau, Weegar, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane and Jacob Markstrom, to name a few. And if contract negotiations, or the season, don’t go well, they might try to flip one (or two) of them at the deadline for even more assets in the Tkachuk trade tree. An insidious part of this to watch out for is any secondary moves the Flames might make to grab a few more assets by shipping out one of the many left-shooting defensemen (Noah Hanifin, Oliver Kylington, Nikita Zadorov, Connor Mackey and Juuso Valimaki) in the organization. Are contract negotiations leading up to arbitration not going well with Kylington? Maybe they can move him for a high pick. Just a thought.

As for Florida, well, they got the best long-term player in this deal. Tkachuk will make the Panthers better, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the team was dealing with a similar issue when it came to Huberdeau and/or Weegar’s long-term future in Florida.

It’s early days, but this looks like a win-win.

Calgary grade: ONE
Florida grade: B+

(Photo by Matthew Tkachuk: Sergei Belski/USA Today)

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