t’s a little unfortunate that the Florida Panthers and Calgary Flames only see each other twice a year.
With Matthew Tkachuk sure to provide some fodder any time he plays his former team, a long-distance rivalry may develop.
And one of the star players who came to the Flames in that NHL trade, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar, may have dropped the first bombs in a potential war of words.
It took place at the Calgary Flames’ annual charity golf tournament on Wednesday. Weegar offered his honest opinion that the Flames are better than the team that sent him to his new city.
“The team’s great … and the city is awesome. There’s lots of excitement,” Weegar said (clip from TSN). “Obviously, coming from Florida on a good team and then coming here now, I’d say we’re a better team than Florida is.”
It’s a bold statement considering the Panthers won the Presidents’ Trophy last year with a 58-18-6 regular-season record. The Cats were bounced in the second round of the NHL playoffs. As were the Calgary Flames.
The Flames lost a pair of 40-goal stars in Johnny Gaudreau and Tkachuk in a tumultuous start to the off-season. But GM Brad Treliving brought in top positional players Jonathan Huberdeau and Weegar in the Tkachuk deal, then added Nazem Kadri in free agency.
It’s a different team — I compare it to a franchise undergoing blood transfusion — and many would consider this year’s group better than last season’s because of the areas of depth that were added to.
Building strength down the middle of the ice, the Flames now have a top three of Elias Lindholm, Kadri and Mikael Backlund.
Huberdeau covers Gaudreau’s playmaking ability and head coach Darryl Sutter will likely encourage more of a shoot-first mentality in the star winger’s approach.
Three legitimate scoring lines should emerge from the Flames line combinations.
And offence from the defence could come steadily as well.
Weegar gives the Flames arguably the deepest blueline in the NHL. Every one of them played in the top four for their respective teams last year. Weegar will get a chance to prove he is an elite top pairing player. The Calgary Flames can use him in any on-ice situation.
This week, there’s even more talk about Weegar sticking around, too. Both Treliving and Weegar suggested they’re working toward an extension.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman shared on his 32 Thoughts Podcast on Thursday that the numbers should land around eight years at $6.5 million.
A team-friendly AAV and a player-friendly term.
An extension wouldn’t kick in until after this season. Interestingly, that means Weegar could be around in Calgary longer than Tkachuk is in Florida.
Plenty of time to work on that unlikely rivalry.