Six months ago, the Calgary Flames and Florida Panthers executed a blockbuster trade involving Matthew Tkachuk, Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. It was the second time in NHL history that 100-point scorers from the previous season (Tkachuk and Huberdeau) were traded for each other, following Wayne Gretzky’s trade to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988 that sent Jimmy Carson and more to the Edmonton Oilers.
As we approach the all-star break, now is a good time to evaluate how the principal players are doing on their new teams.
Tkachuk is living his best life in South Florida. After putting up a career-high 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in his final year in Calgary, Tkachuk is on pace to match those totals this season and will represent the Panthers at the NHL All-Star Game, which they are hosting next weekend.
When Tkachuk has been on the ice at even strength, the Panthers have had a decided edge in expected goals (61.5 per cent). Individually, his 21.3 expected goals in all situations rank 10th in the league.
Few players possess Tkachuk’s ability to score from in tight. He is tied with Brayden Point for the league lead in inner-slot goals (20) and sits second in deflection goals (7) behind Bo Horvat. With Tkachuk on the ice, the Panthers have controlled 68.3 per cent of shots from the inner slot, the area of the ice that has the biggest influence on a game’s outcome.
“He’s got unbelievable hands,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice recently told reporters. “He doesn’t just tip pucks. He directs them net-front. It’s almost like a shot. He places the tip.”
The Panthers are far off their Presidents’ Trophy pace from a season ago, but Tkachuk is certainly not to blame for that. He figures to be a high-impact player throughout his eight-year, $76 million contract.
Unlike Tkachuk, Huberdeau has struggled to produce in his new home. His 33 points in 46 games have him on pace for 57 — which would be 58 fewer than he had last season, when he finished fifth in Hart Trophy voting.
Huberdeau and Flames coach Darryl Sutter have been at odds all season for various reasons, including Huberdeau’s reluctance to shoot the puck. Huberdeau, who averaged a career-high 2.78 shots per game last season, is averaging 1.61 this season.
“You’re not going to have very many points, whether goals or assists, if you don’t shoot,” Sutter said, noting that defenders can devote their attention to shutting down Huberdeau’s passing options. “That’s the way it works.”
Overall, Huberdeau has been far less effective at creating scoring chances for himself and his teammates. The number of offence-generating plays he makes per game has fallen from 10.2 (tied for 15th last season among 532 forwards with a minimum of 100 minutes played) to 6.6 (106th out of 461 qualified forwards).
Some of that is stylistic; the Flames under Sutter are more buttoned-up than the run-and-gun Panthers of 2021-22. Either way, things have not clicked for Huberdeau in Calgary, where he is signed through 2031.
For Weegar, the trade to the Flames was an opportunity to showcase his talents on a bigger stage. His point production is down, but his possession-driving numbers remain impressive.
The Flames have controlled 60.9 per cent of 5-on-5 shot attempts with Weegar on the ice, which ranks fourth out of 262 qualified defencemen (min. 100 minutes). Weegar’s 128 defensive-zone carry-outs are ninth most at the position.
On the defensive side of the puck, Weegar continues to be great at getting his stick into passing lanes, ranking sixth in blocked passes.
The Flames were hoping for more offence from Weegar, who has one goal and 14 points in 48 games. The rest of his game, however, has been rock solid.
All advanced stats from Sportlogiq