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Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

What can Jonathan Huberdeau bring to the Calgary Flames?

In the late hours of Friday, July 22, 2022, the Calgary Flames made one of their biggest trades in franchise history. Matthew Tkachuk – with a fresh 8 year, $9.5 million extension in place – and a conditional fourth-round pick to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a conditional 2025 first round pick (lottery protected).

Let’s take a look at what Jonathan Huberdeau brings to the Calgary Flames

The information

Jonathan Huberdeau

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LW #11 (formerly)

29 years old

6’1” 203 lbs

Shoots: Left

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Contract: $5.9 million – expires at end of 2022-23 season

It’s very hard when trading a star to get any sort of proper value back – let alone someone with Huberdeau’s offensive ability. He may come as a pending UFA but with multiple big dollar deals expiring next season (Lucic, Monahan) there’s more than enough cash to go around. If Huberdeau doesn’t want to sign an extension – it’s possible to move him at the trade deadline and still get assets back. In terms of value available for Tkachuk getting Huberdeau was a bonus nobody saw coming.

HockeyViz.com impact charts

A little bit of explanation for anyone reading that doesn’t quite know how to read these charts

Left “rink” chart: The top zone is the attacking one while the bottom is the players defensive zone. Red is an indicator of shot attempts – the more layered and dark the red is the more shot attempts come from that area of the ice while the player is deployed. That’s great in the upper rink and a bad sign in the lower one. Flip that for blue – it means when the player is deployed a lack of shot attempts come from that area whilst they are out on the ice. The darker the blue the less amount of attempts come from that area. On the right side of the rink chart is the special teams impact in their relative zone that matters based on the special teams situation.

Right “wave” chart: Nice clear headers here give each line a clear indication of what they mean. The colour tiers on the right of the chart show the % of players that fall into the categories of impact. The higher into the black it is the less likely other players look like them. Same can be said with the red. Black is positive value for the category while red is negative value – all relative to the entire league.

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AllThreeZones microstat charts

Explanation: the nice dark squares really tell you what this one is about – what type of player is each player in the league most like. Huberdeau and his top of the league passing ability clearly make him a playmaker – and one of the highest level. He may not get shot attempts but with Lindholm most likely riding with him I would defer every chance I get to that Swedish king’s bomb.

The impact

Well, you would be hard pressed to find anyone that says Huberdeau can’t produce offence at the NHL’s top tier. His primary shot assists per 60 minutes was top 10 in the league – in line with players like Nikita Kucherov, Mitch Marner, Mark Stone, and Johnny Gaudreau. Huberdeau immediately fills the void of much needed playmaker on the team.

As we can see Huberdeau has a knack for creating offence around the net but will not be shy to either take or set up one-time shots from the middle slot. He’ll also help out on special teams as a guy who can have a positive impact with a man up. He’s had time on the PK in Florida before but in Calgary they have lots of their pairings set already and Huberdeau can focus on scoring/setting up goals.

The kicker is – and it’s not hidden in any way – Huberdeau has historically sacrificed a lot of defensive impact in order to create his offence. Calgary is loaded with defensively proficient forwards (Lindholm, Mangiapane, Backlund, Coleman, Toffoli) so that does not strike me as a major issue. Not having that big time offensive driver up front was going to be a problem for Calgary if they wanted to keep competitive and they got that (and more) from Florida.

The future

As mentioned earlier Huberdeau is a UFA at the end of the upcoming season. It’s hard to imagine Flames management would ever let a superstar walk for free in back-to-back seasons. Expect either a long-term extension that would lock Huberdeau up in Calgary for the (theoretical) remainder of his career or for another trade to occur during the season that would see more assets coming Calgary’s way. Either way the clock stopped ticking on Tkachuk and has got significantly more time added to it to lock up a new player.

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With Milan Lucic and Sean Monahan’s money coming off the book there is no shortage of cap space to allocate to Huberdeau. With the power of the eighth year and a competitive team it would be pretty enticing to see the Canadian kid to stick around.

Regardless how it plays out in the future Brad Treliving and his management team were able to grab a package of way higher value than anybody saw coming. A bad situation was turned into unbridled optimism for the upcoming season. Butts will still be filling seats.

(Charts from Hockeyviz.com and AllThreeZones.com)

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