You scratch the asterisk off the blockbuster deal of the NHL offseason: Jonathan Huberdeau is staying in Calgary.
“Once you start your career, you never know what kind of career you’re gonna have,” Huberdeau said Friday, fresh off of signing the richest deal in Flames history. “I’ve worked hard all my life to deserve that and I’m just happy, but it’s only the beginning of something good.”
Huberdeau put pen to paper Thursday night on an eight-year, $84 million dollar deal, outpacing Sean Monahan’s previous team high of $44.625 million over seven years.
“I’m here to play hockey,” the winger said. “When (the contract) got done, though, it was relief.
“Obviously, you want to know where you’re going to be for the next few years. It’s a lot of years, but that’s just exciting.”
The question of an extension had swirled throughout the fanbase since news of his acquisition broke on July 22.
The playmaking winger is the centrepiece of the trade that sent former alternate captain Matthew Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers on an eight-year, $76 million extension.
But with one year left on his contract, fans feared he could walk away in free agency a la Johnny Gaudreau, leaving another gaping hole on the Flames’ top line.
General Manager Brad Treliving caught a flight to Montreal over the long weekend to meet Huberdeau in person for the first time and discuss his long-term future.
In a news release, Thursday, the team’s general manager, Brad Treliving said, “we are excited to extend Jonathan long term in Calgary. He is an elite player, one of the premier forwards in the league in the league who makes players around him better.”
“Obviously that dinner went really well,” Huberdeau said. “You want to play for a team that wants you and, talking to all the management, they seem really excited and made up my mind: I want to play there.”
The 29-year-old said the opportunity to win outweighed the dollars and cents.
Huberdeau led the NHL with 85 assists in 2021 and tied former Flame Gaudreau for second in the scoring race with 115 points.
“The future’s looking bright and it’s not in two, three years — I think it’s now we want to win. That’s why I signed there,” he added. “The way my career has been, it’s always went up, I always played better year after year. So I think it’s the same attitude I have this year: I want to be better than last year.
“I’m going to give everything I have so we can win a Stanley Cup.”
Even more telling, Huberdeau signed the contract without having played a single game in a Flames uniform or exploring the city himself, beyond a trip to the Stampede several years ago. He’s also not had a chance to play under head coach Darryl Sutter, but expects to play up to Sutter’s standards.
Reviews from Treliving, his summer skating buddy former Flames netminder Louis Domingue and other players were glowing.
“I was asking him (Treliving) ‘Yeah, where do you think I should live?’ and stuff like that and more about about the city too,” Huberdeau said. “I think he talks so highly about the city that made me so excited to play there.”
His family will be in the crowd at the Saddledome on October 13 for the season-opener.
–with files from Meaghan Archer, Global News, and The Canadian Press