HENDERSON, Nev. – Yes, Jonathan Huberdeau heard the calls to come home.
After being traded from the Florida Panthers to the Calgary Flames in the blockbuster of the summer, the Saint-Jerome, Que., native had the option to skate out the 2022-23 season and enter free agency as one of the most coveted stars on the market.
Did the possibility of waiting on the Montreal Canadiens cross Huberdeau’s mind?
“I know a lot of people were saying that: ‘Play one year [in Calgary] and then play for Montreal,’” Huberdeau told the 32 Thoughts podcast.
“As much as I love Montreal, I dunno. I think it’s a tough city for a French-Canadian. Calgary traded for me. If Montreal wanted to trade for me, they would’ve traded for me. That’s how I see it. And I want to play for a team that wants me. Calgary wanted me, so that's why I wanted to sign a big extension.”
As stunned as Huberdeau was to be featured in Florida’s deal for Matthew Tkachuk, he was quick to commit to Flames GM Brad Treliving and the club that wanted him.
The playmaker felt uncomfortable entering this upcoming season under the cloud of the unknown that comes with a contract year.
Not long after an encouraging dinner meeting with Treliving in Montreal, Huberdeau signed an eight-year, $84-million extension with his new team.
“I just wanted to know where I was going,” Huberdeau said.
“Brad came to Montreal, and we had a really good talk. We didn’t talk contract; it was more to get to know each other. I like his philosophy about where the team is going. I’m coming with a team that we can win right now. So, I like that. And that's why I wanted to commit to this team and know where I’m going to be for the next [nine] years.”
On Thursday at the Players Media Tour outside Las Vegas, Huberdeau took to the ice in a crisp Flames sweater and his new number, 10, for the first time.
He loved the red.
Now, Huberdeau is hoping MacKenzie Weegar, the other Panther featured in the trade, also signs long-term with Calgary.
“I believe in this team,” Huberdeau said.