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Jonathan Huberdeau: ‘Hard to See‘ Panthers Win the Stanley Cup

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Jonathan huberdeau
Jonathan Huberdeau gives his hockey stick to a fan as he is honored as the third star of the game following a Florida win over the Montreal Canadiens on March 29, 2022, in Sunrise. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

Jonathan Huberdeau spent 10 seasons with the Florida Panthers before, after the best year of his career, he was traded away.

Since that blockbuster trade which happened two years ago on July 22, 2022, the Panthers have reached heights they never did when Huberdeau was here.

It would have been hard for him not to notice.

And, he has.

Speaking to La Presse from his golf tournament Monday near Montreal, Huberdeau said it has been difficult to watch the Panthers make their atmospheric climb without him.

Huberdeau loved playing for the Panthers when it was not cool to do so.

While it has been tough to watch the Panthers win the Stanley Cup from afar, he said he is happy for his friends.

“It’s hard to see the guys lift the Cup,’’ Huberdeau told La Presse’s Guillaume Lefrançois in a story that published on Tuesday.

“You say to yourself: I was there for 10 years, during more difficult times. But that’s how you build a team. When you’re young, you don’t care, you just want to build your career. Now I’m back in that situation, but a little older.”

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That situation, of course, is a Calgary team which today looks a lot like some of the Florida teams he played for.

When he and MacKenzie Weegar were traded to Calgary for Matthew Tkachuk, the Panthers had won the NHL Presidents’ Trophy but were swept out of the second round by the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tkachuk had told the Flames he would not sign a long-term deal with them just days after the team watched top scorer Johnny Gaudreau leave for the Columbus Blue Jackets as a free agent.

Then-GM Brad Treliving got the best deal for Tkachuk that he could: Huberdeau, who had just recorded 115 points for the Panthers; Weegar, a top defenseman; prospect Cole Schwindt, and a first-round pick which Calgary most likely will use next year.

Florida, knowing Huberdeau and Weegar were both up for long and expensive contracts, needed Tkachuk more than the other two teams (Carolina and St. Louis) he said he would agree to be traded to.

Huberdeau and Weegar both got their eight-year contracts with Calgary — but the Flames have now missed the playoffs in each of their first two seasons there.

“I’m happy for the guys, they worked hard,’’ Huberdeau continued. “[Sasha] Barkov, I’ve been with him for years, he works so hard. Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett too.

“Tkachuk has arrived, and yes, he is good. But he is well surrounded. They have talent, you see it. Bill Zito was good at getting guys like [Oliver] Ekman-Larsson and Dmitry Kulikov, who were doing less well elsewhere. And a good coach like Paul Maurice, it seems. I thought they were going to win.’’

The Flames are now in the midst of a rebuild having lost Elias Lindholm, Andrew Mangiapane, Noah Hanifin, and Chris Tanev.

Before the draft, Calgary traded goalie Jacob Markstom, who knows a little about dark days in Florida himself, to New Jersey.

Yet the celebration for the Panthers rages on in South Florida.

For Weegar, things have worked out pretty well. He seems happy in Calgary.

Huberdeau may be as well.

But his story has been more of a struggle in his two seasons.

In his first year with the Flames, he obviously did not mesh under the systems of coach Daryl Sutter leading to his firing.

Treliving left for Toronto after Kyle Dubas was let go following their second-round loss to the Panthers in 2023.

After recording just 55 points off 15 goals in his first season with the Flames, Huberdeau got 12 goals and 52 points last season — the first under his new contract which pays him $10.5 million.

“It’s certain that I’m hard to trade,” Huberdeau said. “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. …

“It’s never fun to be in a rebuild. 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 percent.”

More FHN Coverage of the Stanley Cup Champion Panthers:
UP NEXT FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHERS
  • NHL Free Agency: Opened July 1
  • Florida Panthers Development Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Today-Thursday
  • Florida Panthers Training Camp, Fort Lauderdale: Mid-September
  • Florida Panthers Preseason: Sept. 22-Oct. 5
  • Florida Panthers Opening Night/Banner Unveiling: Oct. 8 vs. Bruins

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Johnny Florida

Funny how he names guys that are better with the Cats than they were elsewhere. Does he have a mirror in his house?

Ed Purchase

Reading this I am reminded of comments Stephen Weiss made shortly after watching Horton and Campbell lift the Cup with the Bruins. Although for him, it was his having chosen to stay out of ‘loyalty to the team that drafted me’. I hope Hubie’s new coach and the disappointment (envy?) he felt watching his former teammates lift it fuels him back to his MVP-conversation heights.

Harry Lampley

Love Huby but if he is feeling bad about his situation, he can always go and look at his bank account and feel much better

surveyjay

Exactly, he feels terrible, untill he gets in his porch and drives to his mansion, then he starts to feel a little bit better. Lol

Kevin Hawkey

It is hard to ignore his bitterness and jealousy over what the Panthers have done without him. That said, Hubey helped the Panthers get to where they are now. We won the President’s Trophy with him. He played great until the playoffs. He is not a physical player and it showed against the Lightning. Kudos to Zito for seeing that we would never get over the hump playing that style of offense. I know he has lots of deep friendships here but it has to hurt to see how much success has come to the Panthers while he has absolutely… Read more »

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