Huberdeau accepting role as Flames get younger

And Huberdeau still seems to believe the Flames can be better than some are accepting.

It wasn’t easy for Jonathan Huberdeau to watch the Florida Panthers win the Stanley Cup this spring while the Calgary Flames are getting younger.

Speaking with Guillaume LeFrancois of La Presse, Huberdeau said it was bittersweet seeing his former teammates lifting the Cup after he’d spent a decade with the club.

Huberdeau was famously traded alongside MacKenzie Weegar and Cole Schwindt two years ago in the deal that sent Matthew Tkachuk to the Panthers, who immediately went to two straight Stanley Cup Finals and lifted hockey’s Holy Grail a few weeks ago.

The trade hasn’t gone as well for Calgary or for Huberdeau.

He signed an eight-year deal that pays him $10.5-million annually shortly after being acquired, only to see the Flames trade away the likes of Tyler Toffoli, Elias Lindholm, Chris Tanev, Noah Hanifin, Nikita Zadorov and Jacob Markstrom in an effort to get younger and start building towards a brighter future.

“It’s never fun to be in a rebuild,” Huberdeau told La Presse. “When you are young, you can learn, gain maturity, you have time. But at 31-years-old, you want to win and you want to win now. It’s harder to swallow but you have to accept your role, 100%.”

Nothing in the interview with Huberdeau came across as the player complaining or criticizing Flames management.

He acknowledged, though, that his production had fallen off since he was traded to Calgary and that with his contract paying him as much as it does, it’s not like there are many suitors out there for him as the Flames focus on building through the draft and getting younger.

He managed 55 points in his first season with the Flames and only 52 points in 2023-24, meaning he’ll almost certainly be with the team for the foreseeable future.

“It’s certain that I’m hard to trade,” Huberdeau acknowledged to La Presse. “I knew it when I signed the contract but I didn’t know how it was going to happen. I thought I was going to produce points, that it would be good, but the more defensive system-of-play didn’t help.”

To his credit, Huberdeau doesn’t sound like he’s throwing in the towel and giving up on the possibility of the Flames being in the mix for the playoffs next year.

Flames management has been fiercely resistant to using the term “rebuild”, opting instead for calling what the organization going through a “re-tool” where the team gets younger without actively tanking and accepting losses.

And Huberdeau still seems to believe the Flames can be better than some are accepting.

“There are surprises,” Huberdeau said. “We can get into the playoffs, even if everyone sees us as the underdogs.”

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