When new Calgary Flames star Jonathan Huberdeau told media he was open to a long-term deal in Calgary this week, he wasn’t just telling people what they wanted to hear.
His agent, Allan Walsh, said as much later while recording his Agent Provocateur podcast with Adam Wylde.
Walsh also revealed that Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving had no conversations with him before the surprise trade was completed. Treliving made the move knowing there was a chance he could be renting Huberdeau and top defenceman MacKenzie Weegar. They both could test unrestricted free agency next summer.
“Calgary accepted the fact there was no conversations with me or Jonathan before making the trade and had no idea whether he would be open to staying in Calgary or not,” Walsh told Wylde.
“(Huberdeau) said very publicly, very honestly, with no agenda, transparently — I am open in spending the next many years in Calgary.
“He spoke it. I work for him. My job is to accomplish his goals. It’s (about) what he wants. And he is open to staying in Calgary. We’ll see what happens from here.”
Flames talks with star winger have begun
Treliving said last weekend he had already connected with Walsh. His client is coming off a career-high 115-point season. Huberdeau was fifth in the Hart Trophy voting and set a new single-season NHL record for assists (85) by a left-winger.
That shattered Joe Juneau’s mark of 70. Former Calgary Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau, who bolted for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency this month, had 75 helpers while matching Huberdeau’s 115 points.
In replacing Gaudreau’s offence with the dynamic Huberdeau, Treliving helped keep the franchise competitive. Even if he’s only here for this year.
But money isn’t a major problem. The Flames were willing to give Gaudreau a reported $10.5 million for eight seasons. Matthew Tkachuk, who sparked the trade when he told the Flames he wasn’t going to sign a long-term deal, was due at least $9M this year as an RFA.
It was reported recently that Huberdeau was seeking $9M annually for the maximum eight years with the Panthers. Even if that price has gone up, Treliving can find a way to fit it in and potentially add more up front to lessen the sting of the Tkachuk loss.
Aside from the money and proving the team is doing everything it can to compete for a Stanley Cup, the biggest element the Calgary Flames have going for them is they have shown they want Huberdeau here.
They took a shot and brought him over without knowing whether he’d even be willing to become the face of a franchise that wasn’t the Panthers.
No easy task for a guy who Walsh said “identifies as a Panther” in his podcast.
Panthers trade caught Huberdeau by surprise
Walsh also talked about how things were left with Panthers GM Bill Zito before the surprise trade.
“I had a very positive meeting with Bill Zito in Montreal at the draft, the day before (the first round). Went to his hotel suite, spent an hour and a half, sitting there. We talked a little bit about a contract, but we didn’t ever negotiate. We just talked about timing and when I could expect an offer,” Walsh said.
“He said, ‘Listen, 100 per cent we want to sign Jonathan. Obviously, he’s our most important player. He’s our MPV; he had a hell of a season. I love the guy. Let’s get through free agency, the first week to 10 days, and I’ll send you something to get the ball rolling.’ And that’s the way we left.
“Imagine Jonathan’s surprise getting a call at 11 p.m. on Friday last week letting him know that thank you very much for everything but you’ve been traded to Calgary.”
Huberdeau admitted on Monday that he was still feeling a bit of the shock.
But Walsh’s words on that front could also bode well for those hopeful the Calgary Flames will be watching Huberdeau in their jersey for years to come.
“You go from shock … you can sit there and be hurt, you can sit there and you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can immediately say I’m going to look forward,” Walsh said. “What players generally do is they look to the future.”