EDMONTON – Amidst endless speculation on where Micheal Ferland might finish the season, the Carolina Hurricanes winger says talks with the club on a long-term contract have been going well.
“I’d love to stay here,” the 26-year-old pending free agent told Sportsnet from Carolina.
“They’ve told my agent they want me here too.”
What he isn’t so clear on is how his return to Calgary will be received Tuesday, particularly when his top line faces off against Matthew Tkachuk’s trio.
“I don’t know – I was thinking about that,” chuckled the former Flame when asked about being on the other side of one of the league’s top agitators.
“I hope he doesn’t go after (linemate Sebastian) Aho. Aho was asking how Chucky is.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he went after Aho. I hope not. It would be funny having to cross-check him or something.
“He’s hilarious, definitely one of a kind. He loves that stuff.”
The two have stayed in contact since Ferland was part of the summer’s blockbuster swap with Dougie Hamilton in exchange for Elias Lindholm, Noah Hanifin and Harvard hotshot Adam Fox.
Tkachuk wasn’t ready to promise anything when the two teams meet for the first time, laughing when told of Ferland’s curiosity.
“I don’t know – we’ll see what happens during the game,” beamed Tkachuk.
“Ferl is one of my good buddies. He was so good to me when I first came to the team. We still keep in touch a lot.
“He’s definitely not going to be scared to throw a hit on me for sure.
“I’ll definitely try not put myself in any bad spots to be run out of the building by him.”
Or pummelled, as Ferland did to Nashville’s Austin Watson last week.
Blessed with a quick release, a nose for the net and a 6-foot-1, 217-pound frame capable of pounding on anyone in the league, Ferland was a huge fan favourite in Calgary.
Fans loved his triumphant tale of overcoming alcohol addiction, his scoring upside, his ability to bruise and the constant threat he posed to anyone who took liberties with his teammates.
Meshing well on the top line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan in stretches, the knock was his inconsistency.
Dating back to his coming out party in the playoffs against Vancouver four years ago when he scored key goals and manhandled the Canucks, the sky seemed the limit for Ferland.
After scoring 21 times last season that limit scared Flames GM Brad Treliving in terms of his pending contract possibilities, essentially pricing him out of Calgary.
Treliving hated to include Ferland in the package, but knew that’s what it would take to execute the Hamilton deal.
Ferland’s price tag in the neighbourhood of $5 million as a UFA was never going to be a possibility in Calgary, so the deal was done.
“I was caught completely off guard – I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Ferland of the move from a city the Swan River, Man. native spent his summers in.
“At the same time I was a little excited for a change.
“It has been a lot of fun. There’s no snow over here, so the lifestyle is different compared to Canada.
“In Calgary, and all Canadian markets, there’s so much media, but here it’s almost like there’s no pressure on you at all. I like that.”
He’s handled the relatively stress-free environment well, scoring 13 goals and adding 12 helpers in 40 games alongside Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
His rare combination of skill, size and brawn have made him one of the most popular trade targets as teams gear up for the rigors of the post-season.
Conventional wisdom suggests that for a team that has let go endless stars for fear of having to dig too deep into its pocket, Ferland may have priced himself out of Carolina and is ripe for another swap.
After all, Ferland said his priority his term, which could get tricky as Aho is also in need of a pricey new deal.
As Tkachuk said, “he’s set himself up well.”
In terms of where he may be playing next, Ferland’s focus is on Edmonton Sunday night before a Monday skate in Cowtown.
“I’m excited to come back – I’ve obviously never had to go through anything like this before,” said Ferland, a fifth-round draft pick of the Flames in 2010 who said one of his goals is to be a 30-goal scorer.
“I still talk to Johnny, Monny and Chucky and a couple other guys, so it will be weird playing against my former teammates for sure.
“I knew they were going to be a good team. They’ve got good goaltending right now and they’ve got good depth and solid a defence corps.”
Michael Frolik watched with interest as Ferland developed from junior stud to competent pro, and is convinced the crowd’s response to Ferland’s return will be positive.
“He’s a tough player who has size and can skate and can shoot and when he hits someone it hurts,” said Frolik.
“You can see what (Tom) Wilson has done in Washington and I think there’s a little bit of comparison. I think Wilson is a little more crazy, but when they hit they can really affect the game and really hurt someone to change the momentum of a game and get the crowd excited.
“He was pretty effective with Johnny and Monny and gave them good room. Especially in the playoffs you need players like that.”
Ferland was prepared to call one shot regarding his return to Calgary.
“I’m going to Villa Firenze where all the (Flames) guys go,” he said of his age-old pre-game meal haunt.
“We’ll welcome him for sure,” laughed Tkachuk.
“I’ll be good. We’ll say hi and catch up.”
They likely won’t be the only words they’ll exchange during his stay.