Tkachuk trade shows Flames' intent to defend Pacific Division title

Backed into a corner with a second star forward in two weeks set to leave the team, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving came out swinging and moved Matthew Tkachuk in one of the biggest deals in franchise history.

Late Friday evening, the team announced a deal that sent the 104-point game-breaker, a rare blend of skill, physicality, edge, and leadership, to the Florida Panthers in exchange for playmaking winger Jonathan Huberdeau, 

who himself had 115 points last season, underrated defenceman Mackenzie Weeegar, prospect Cole Schwindt, and a lottery-protected first-round pick.

 While Calgary was never going to replicate him in a deal, they have at least come close to replacing him by adding another legitimate star in Huberdeau (who was fifth in Hart Trophy voting last season), a stay-at-home blueliner with an underrated offensive skillset in Weegar, plus two future assets.

The emphasis on immediate help in Huberdeau and Weegar shows the Flames still intend to defend their Pacific Division title next season.

Without Tkachuk and Gaudreau, the Flames would have still iced a strong lineup. They had Elias Lindholm, one of the game’s best two-way centres, 35-goal scorer Andrew Mangiapane, and good middle-six contributors in Blake Coleman and Tyler Toffoli.

Their back-end of Noah Hanifin, Rasmus Andersson, Chris Tanev, and Oliver Kylington performed very well, and Jacob Markstrom remains one of the NHL’s better netminders. 

Now, the Flames can pursue other business ahead of training camp in a few weeks. Nazem Kadri, who they have been connected to in the past, remains a free agent, as do depth forward options like Sonny Milano and Evan Rodrigues.

There is calculated risk in this deal for the Flames that will be addressed in the coming months.