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Tkachuk being available quickly changed the Panthers plans with Huberdeau

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Tkachuk huberdeau panthers
The Florida Panthers acquired Matthew Tkachuk (top) in a blockbuster trade with the Calgary Flames in which Jonathan Huberdeau heads to Alberta. — AP Photos: Huberdeau by Frank Franklin II; Tkachuk by Mark Humphrey

Florida Panthers general manager Bill Zito opened the team’s press conference introducing new star Matthew Tkachuk by thanking Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar — the two main pieces of the Calgary Flames’ return in the blockbuster trade.

The Panthers had been in initial conversations with Huberdeau’s agent about a contract extension as the six-year deal he signed had one season remaining.

With plenty of time to negotiate, a deal would likely get done with Huberdeau getting a substantial raise.

Although the two sides were apart on money, at least in the early stages of talks, Huberdeau did not seem to be the type who wanted out and Florida did not want him to leave.

But when Matthew Tkachuk suddenly and unexpectedly became available, the focus of the Florida front office made a quick turn.

If the Panthers could get Tkachuk — and lock him down long-term — they had to go for it.

So they did.

”There was no issue. But then this came up,” Zito told Florida Hockey Now following the end of Monday’s press conference.

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