NHL trade grades: Panthers make blockbuster deal for Matthew Tkachuk

NHL trade grades: Panthers make blockbuster deal for Matthew Tkachuk

The trade

Panthers get: Forward Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round pick

Flames get: Forward Jonathan Huberdeau, defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, forward Cole Schwindt and a conditional 2025 first-round pick


Dom Luszczyszyn: Wow.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

This is a blockbuster in every sense of the word with two absolute superstars going each way.

All year we were told that Jonathan Huberdeau was an MVP candidate, but it took several additions for him to be worth an actual MVP candidate: Matthew Tkachuk.

We can debate all day about which player is worth more, but the fact of the matter is that Tkachuk is younger and has a more complete game — it makes sense that Florida would want him for its future.

At the same time, Huberdeau PLUS Mackenzie Weegar is a bridge too far. I don’t think it’s controversial to say Tkachuk is the more valuable asset (especially as contract considerations are concerned), but to also add a legit top-pair defender is absolutely wild. Calgary, with no leverage, did incredibly well here considering the circumstances. Yes, both Huberdeau and Weegar have one year left before unrestricted free agency (UFA) — but together they carry more value than Tkachuk alone. Tkachuk’s extension helps, for sure, but wow. That is a lot.

It speaks to the value the league shares for all three of Tkachuk, Huberdeau and Weegar. But at the end of the day, Florida got a superstar power forward for eight years, and Calgary got two exceptional players, too. They both did well depending on how you look at it.

Calgary grade: A+
Florida grade: B

Corey Pronman: Huberdeau was one of the best forwards in the NHL last season. He’s a player with elite skill, creativity and vision who can run a power play with the best of them. He’s a competitive forward whose only real downsides are a lack of a dangerous top gear and not being overly physical. I don’t think Florida was 100 percent confident they could get Huberdeau re-signed, even though that was a likely possibility. He was also quite disappointing in last season’s playoffs.

Weegar developed very well with Florida after being a mid-round pick. He’s a highly intelligent puck-mover with strong mobility and a high motor. He’s a legit top-of-the-lineup defenseman who, like Huberdeau, is a pending UFA in 2023.

Cole Schwindt is a good-sized forward with some skill and scoring ability and a solid work rate off the puck too. His skating is the big limitation with him. He produced a lot of offense this season in the AHL considering he got no power-play time. He has a decent chance to be a bottom-six forward.

Tkachuk is one of the best young stars in the league. He is an extremely skilled and creative winger who also has an elite work rate. He is great around the net front, wins a lot of battles and has an edge in his game. His only negative is a lack of true dangerous NHL speed, but everything else about his game is upper echelon. He has a game that works very well in the playoffs, too.

Such a massive part of grading this deal will be Calgary’s ability to get either or both of Hubderdeau and Weegar extended. If they can, they’re back in business as a top NHL team for several years, adding two high-end NHL players after losing two in Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau. If they don’t, they are right back where they started. I will presume for the sake of this article that they are able to work out extensions for at least one of their new two Canadian stars.

Florida takes care of the pending UFA situations for Huberdeau and Weegar, where they were unlikely to sign both, and are able to turn that into a locked-in, young, elite power forward. In doing so, they move yet another first-round pick (you’ll next see the Panthers at the podium in the first round in 2025 or 2026) but they are clearly all in with this core of players and still look like a Stanley Cup contender going into next season.

Today, Calgary improved its team more than Florida did. Long-term, Florida likely improved its club more while staying relevant as a contender.

This is one of the most fascinating trades of the salary cap era and will be dissected for years to come. Points to both clubs for creativity and guts.

Calgary Flames: A-
Florida Panthers: B+

Shayna Goldman: I’m truly trying to wrap my brain around this. I expected Tkachuk to be traded, but to St. Louis or Dallas. Even Vegas felt possible because the Golden Knights always buy, then dump players off later to clear cap. But Florida! Hello!

The Panthers saw their “all-in” moves at the deadline and somehow raised it. They bring in an elite winger – legitimately one of the best in the league – and extend him for eight years. The Panthers keep their forward group stacked with a player who gives them more value in the short and long term in Tkachuk. So they obviously walk away with that win. Still, Panthers management gave up a ton here and is running thin on assets to address the rest of Florida’s roster.

The first question I had was where this left Huberdeau and his next deal in a year. Well, it leaves him in Calgary!

The Flames apparently are hellbent on staying in the playoff picture after losing two of their best forwards. Now, Calgary adds another elite passer and a high-end defenseman. The fact that the former isn’t exactly a defensive stalwart should be fine in the Flames’ system. If they can’t extend Huberdeau, this would be quite the gamble when they probably could have added players with more certainty elsewhere. But since he’s not the only asset here, it makes it far more palatable. Instead, it’s Weegar, a first-round pick and a prospect – that’s absolutely a win for the Flames when they didn’t have as much leverage after it was established that Tkachuk’s time with the team would be limited.

Calgary grade: A
Florida grade: B+

Sean Gentille: We’ve written thousands of words about Tkachuk’s future here over the last few days. Thousands more set to run on Saturday morning had to be scrapped. At no point — not from me, Dom, Hailey Salvian, Jeremy Rutherford, pick a name from a hat — did anyone string together “Maybe Brad Treliving can win this trade.”

And yet, here we are, in the middle of the night. Turns out Treliving could win the trade. Turns out Treliving did win the trade. It’s a rule of thumb that whoever gets the best player gets the edge. Rules were made to be broken. Tkachuk is better than Huberdeau. Tkachuk is better than Weegar. Tkachuk is better than Schwindt. Tkachuk is certainly better than a conditional first-round pick.

But Tkachuk isn’t better than the Flames’ full return. And frankly, it might not be that close. That doesn’t mean Florida lost here; Tkachuk immediately signed for less than he could’ve gotten on the open market, through the rest of his prime. It certainly doesn’t mean Tkachuk lost; he’s on a better team, in a state with no income tax. Signing Huberdeau and Weegar was no lock, especially given Florida’s (previous) cap situation. Tkachuk is signed, sealed and delivered until he’s well into his 30s.

And Calgary’s dub doesn’t come without issues; Huberdeau, productive as he is, isn’t a complete player on par with Tkachuk. He’s a UFA after next season, and whether he stays is an open, very compelling question. Same goes for Weegar — but facts are facts. Huberdeau is an elite first-liner. Weegar is a first-pair guy. The risk of losing them is worth the possibility that you sign both, especially for Treliving, who seemed to be, let’s say, on the verge of the hot seat. Unreal work. A gamble worth taking. Calgary, somehow, still should be a playoff team.

Calgary grade: A+
Florida grade: B+

Hailey Salvian: Brad Treliving was put in an unenviable position this week — trying to win a trade with a player like Tkachuk going out the door. But he might have just done it, at least in the short term. Yes, he will need to try to retain Huberdeau and Weegar (two UFAs next summer), but with his hands tied and little leverage with Tkachuk, he went out and brought in a legitimate MVP candidate and a top-pair defenseman. Not that anyone has forgotten, but this offseason, the Flames also lost Johnny Gaudreau, who finished second in league scoring tied with … Huberdeau. This is the Tkachuk trade, but if the Flames were looking for a playmaking, point-producing winger to fill a hole on the left side, they just got one.

Huberdeau can run the show in Calgary. His defensive impacts aren’t great, but Calgary coach Darryl Sutter has helped in that area before, and he should be able to do it again. On the defensive end, the Flames, under Sutter, pride themselves on limiting chances against and being tough to play against. Adding a solid two-way defenseman in Weegar should only help with that identity. Not to mention that beefing up the blue line should have been a priority this offseason after the terrible display without Chris Tanev in Round 2 against Edmonton, but that need fell down the to-do list behind Gaudreau and Tkachuk.

This deal should give Calgary at least one more year to try to contend with a core built around Huberdeau, Weegar, Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane and Jacob Markstrom, to name a few. And if contract talks, or the season, don’t go well, maybe they try to flip one (or two) of them at the deadline for even more assets in the Tkachuk trade tree. A sneaky part of this to look out for is any secondary moves the Flames could make to grab some more assets by shipping out one of the many left-shot defensemen (Noah Hanifin, Oliver Kylington, Nikita Zadorov, Connor Mackey and Juuso Valimaki) in the organization. Contract talks leading up to arbitration don’t go well with Kylington? Maybe they can move him for a high pick. Just a thought.

As for Florida, well, they got the best player for the longest term in this deal. Tkachuk will make the Panthers better, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the team was dealing with a similar issue when it came to Huberdeau and/or Weegar’s long-term future in Florida.

It’s early, but this looks like a win-win.

Calgary grade: A
Florida grade: B+

(Photo of Matthew Tkachuk: Sergei Belski / USA Today)


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