CALGARY – Given the white-knuckle ride Jonathan Huberdeau and Brad Treliving have both been on as of late, it’s no wonder the two hit it off at dinner the other night.
The duo had plenty to unpack as they broke bread at Montreal’s Bar George on Monday, where a foundation of trust was built between a franchise player and a GM that led to Thursday’s eight-year, $84 million extension with the Flames.
The largest deal in franchise history put the tidiest of bows on a tumultuous fortnight that has seen both sides turn a period of tremendous upheaval into a positive result few could have fathomed.
The player got his dream contract and the team stabilized its future with a talented pillar around which to continue building.
Despite losing two of the franchise’s most notable stars, there’s now tremendous optimism and intrigue in Calgary.
And plenty of that has to do with the long-term commitment from Huberdeau, which bolsters the belief of many that Treliving’s return on the Matthew Tkachuk trade flipped the franchise’s fortunes on a dime.
With a four-player return that included MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, a first rounder and Huberdeau, Treliving turned a reeling organization on the brink of a rebuild into one of the league’s most compelling re-tools in decades.
With Huberdeau’s signature, the deal looks even better.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there were some challenges,” chuckled Treliving about his month from hell.
“A wise man once told me, ‘a lot of guys can hit the fastball, but who can hit the curve determines how long you stay around.’ We got a few curves and we tried to just dig in and take a swing.”
A few curves, as in two franchise players seeking greener pastures within weeks of one another.
Since then, Treliving convinced Andrew Mangiapane to stay for three more years (at $5.8 million AAV), Oliver Kylington for two more (at $2.5 million AAV), and now Huberdeau, which further cements the merits of the deal that brought him here.
“The idea of signing Huberdeau wasn’t to flip the narrative,” said Treliving, insisting the push to ink him right away had nothing to do with erasing myths about players wanting out of Calgary.
“I get it, we went through the situation with a few players that made a decision and it happened back-to-back. This isn’t an ongoing thing where people can’t wait to get out of Calgary.”
“I don’t fault anybody. That’s solely in the player’s rights. I said it that day, it pisses you off a bit when you hear it because I don’t think that is the narrative. Listen, (Huberdeau) has done his homework. He obviously got a really good contract and we got a really good player for a lot of years.”
Huberdeau admitted Friday he needed time to process everything before realizing a path forward could be fruitful for everyone.
“Emotionally it has been a rollercoaster for the past few weeks,” smiled Huberdeau, of the blockbuster trade from Florida two weeks earlier that hit him harder than any errant beach frisbee ever could.
“Obviously shocked with the trade. I was a little down, but at the end of the day you want to look forward in life. That’s what I told myself and my family. It was important to turn the page for good and focus on the new team.”
Huberdeau explained why he chose to plunge into an eight-year extension without so much as dipping his toe into Calgary first.
“I know it’s a good city to play hockey in and the community is great,” said the left winger, who will seamlessly fit into the left-side vacancy left by the one player who tied him with 115 points last year, Gaudreau.
“I asked a lot of questions to a lot of people but, at the end of the day, I wanted to sign long-term. They traded for me and I know they wanted me, and they were talking highly about me. When you hear that you want to play for a team that wants you.”
“That’s why it was so important to me to show dedication to them, and I want to give back to the community already. I’m excited to get there and learn about the city some more.”
The fact that Treliving, and assistant GM Don Maloney, jumped on a plane to meet with him in his native Quebec earlier in the week meant plenty to the playmaking wiz.
They didn’t talk numbers, as it was simply a get-to-know-you dinner.
Contract talks with Allan Walsh intensified following word from Huberdeau he was comfortable moving forward.
“I can just tell in his eyes the way he was talking he wants to win now,” said Huberdeau of Treliving.
“He wants to build a winning team. He wants to go get players. Right now we have a good lineup. Our defence is really good and we have a great goalie, and you look down our lineup and we’re just a good team.”
“He made me think I’ll fit really well in that lineup. He wants to win for a lot of years, and I liked that.”
After signing late Thursday, Huberdeau said he woke up Friday chuckling at his good fortune.
“This is only the beginning of something good,” said Huberdeau, who has also been buoyed by chats with coach Darryl Sutter.
“My goal was to sign a long-term contract, but my main goal is winning a Stanley Cup. It’s pretty crazy. When I woke up this morning I was like, ‘that really happened.’”
At some point soon, when the adrenaline of the last month subsides, Treliving will likely say the exact same thing.