With Weegar and Huberdeau open to a future in Calgary, Flames’ re-tooling is underway

Fresh off the blockbuster trade from Florida to Calgary, Jonathan Huberdeau joins Shawn McKenzie to reflect on his time with the Panthers and looks ahead to playing in a Canadian market for the Flames.

CALGARY – They talked about cowboys, they talked about mountains, they talked about Stampede and they talked about winning.

But what everyone wants to know is whether Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar are ready to talk about extensions.

“I’m open,” said Huberdeau, less than 72 hours after having his dream-like existence in Florida upended with a blockbuster trade to Calgary.

“We’ve never really talked about that. But I’m open to staying in Calgary for a long time. We’ve only been there 48 hours and we haven’t got to go to Calgary to see everything, but I’m open for it and I’ll kind of leave that to the GM and the agent. They already started talking about it. We’ll see what’s going to happen. I’m open, for sure.”

And you, Mr. Weegar?

“Same here,” said one of the most underrated top-pairing blueliners in the league. “I’m open to sign a long-term deal. It’s been quick and it’s been short so far, but the city and the team, there’s no reason not to be open about it. I’m looking forward to my agent talking to Brad and seeing what’s going on. I’m very open to it.”

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Sure, talk is cheap.

Putting their (long-term) money where their mouths are will ultimately dictate the true winner of a deal that has the hockey world lauding Brad Treliving for procuring the two stars, Cole Schwindt and a lottery-protected first rounder for Matthew Tkachuk and a fourth.

Both players’ agents have had preliminary talks with Treliving, but it would be foolish for anyone to expect either to commit to anything without sampling the city, organization and a winter.

After all, both can write their own ticket anywhere they’d like after this season, a la Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau.

They’re that coveted.

What’s different here is both are Canadian-born, adding intrigue to their new destination despite still reeling from a trade neither wanted.

“I never thought I would play in Canada,” said Huberdeau, 29, a native of Quebec, who was blown away by the response from fans online, welcoming him. 

“Obviously a lot of history on this club and watching … this year we watched a little bit more of the playoffs and saw the atmosphere in the building. Passionate fans and community. It’s good to see the warm welcome. Everyone’s excited. They lost the two best players on the team and it was tough for the fans and the community, and now we can rejuvenate everyone and it’s cool to see we can bring that to the Flames and the fans. For me, I’m excited to get going and step on the ice and play in front of the fans.”

Weegar concurred.

“This is super cool for me, playing in a Canadian market,” said the 28-year-old Ottawa-area native who played junior in Halifax.

“I never really thought I would play in a Canadian market. This is going to be super exciting for me and my family. Lots of history with Calgary. I got to watch them growing up, obviously a lot and seeing them on (TV) all the time. The fans here are so passionate. They’re loud. When Johnny and I have come to Calgary, and played against the Flames, it has been crazy. Watching the playoffs and seeing the Sea of Red and stuff like that. Now to be part of it, it’s a really cool feeling. It’s very surreal for myself, obviously Johnny and I being Canadian kids. I’m glad that maybe we can make the blows a little bit softer on the city.”

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After two weeks of hell for the fans and their team, they’ve cushioned the blows for sure.

Their arrival has allowed the team to re-tool, not rebuild.

For now.

If neither is keen to extend their stay, it’s a different story.

Money likely won’t be a factor — the Flames are poised to have plenty of cap space to sign both players next summer. So, what sort of things will influence their decision to sign and prevent any debate over whether they’ll have to be traded at the deadline?  

“If you’re talking hypothetically and checking some of the boxes, it’s ‘are we a winning team? How is the city? How are the teammates? How are my coaches?’” Weegar said. “I think those are a lot of boxes you check to sign a long-term deal with a team. I’m open to it. I’ve heard great things about all those things I just said. I guess it’s just coming down and getting down there and experiencing it myself, and Brad [Treliving] and my agent as well just talking, negotiation talks, seeing if it works for both sides. Those are some of the things.”

No, neither saw the deal coming, yet they carried themselves well in their opening Zoom availability.

Huberdeau endeared himself to Calgarians by reporting he’d attended the Stampede a few years ago, even going as far as to gussy up in Wranglers and boots.

“Who doesn’t have a good time at the Stampede?” laughed Huberdeau, who cites Jacob Markstrom as the only Flame he’s ever played with.

“You can see the vibe in the city. It’s pretty cool. When I went there, I got dressed as a cowboy. It was a cool experience.

“We know the fans are passionate. When you play there it’s always loud and the people, they know their stuff. I think that’s the most exciting part, getting to know the city. We’re probably going to go there in the summer and see what’s going on and where we’re going to live. For me, I’m excited. It’s a new chapter and I’m excited to get going and meet the guys.”

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After years playing on the left side of Selke Trophy winner Aleksander Barkov, he should fit right in with Selke finalist Elias Lindholm, a 40-goal scorer.

“Hopefully he can score 50 with me,” smiled the 115-point playmaker who just broke the NHL record for a left winger with 85 assists last season. “He’s a great player. I’m the type of player that’s a playmaker and I try to set up the guys and try to make people better around me. I think he is the guy who goes to the right spots and obviously he can get the puck and put it in. It would be a great fit.

“But I haven’t really thought about who I’m going to play with. It’s going to be Darryl (Sutter’s.) That’s his job. I’m going to go there and play with whoever he wants me to play with.”

Weegar will almost certainly play the left side with Rasmus Andersson, but his ability to play either side gives Sutter options with a defensive group that was already one of the league’s best last season.

“I think the team looks really good,” said Weegar, whose former club won the President’s Trophy last year.

“It’s obviously been an emotional week with the ups and downs and losing two great players, but to have Huby and I come in and get a little bit more excitement around the city again. I don’t think it’s a rebuild either. When you bring in Johnny and I, we’re here to win. I think Brad knows that. He wants to win now and the team wants to win now. I think we’ve got a really good chance at winning the Stanley Cup. Johnny and I are ready to start winning with this team.”

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