The most important off-season dinner in Calgary Flames history took place in a private room at a discrete hotel bar a stone’s throw from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
On Monday, Flames general manager Brad Treliving flew to Montreal to meet with the newly-acquired star forward Jonathan Huberdeau.
Treliving had acquired Huberdeau, blueliner MacKenzie Weegarforward prospect Cole Schwindtand a conditional first-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft on July 22 in exchange for star forward Matthew Tkachuk and a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2025 Draft.
The headliner in that package, of course, is Huberdeau who’s coming off a career-high 115-point campaign (30 goals, 85 assists) with the Florida Panthers in 2021-22. The 29-year-old native of Saint-Jerome, Que., is a natural replacement for the recently departed Johnny Gaudreauso Treliving wanted to get to know his new star whom he had yet to meet.
Huberdeau and Treliving dined at Bar George in the city’s Golden Square Mile.
“Obviously that dinner went really well,” Huberdeau said.
“We got along well. Obviously we got the signature [on a contract] and I’m in for the next nine years and I’m excited to work with Brad.”
Treliving downplayed the meal’s significance, simply saying it was a manager meeting a new colleague.
“I’ve heard there’s been lots of talk about the dinner,” Treliving said. “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It’s a player we traded for who I’d never met, so I thought it was just important to get out there and sit across the table from him and get to know him and him getting to know me. We had a good visit.”
Three days after meeting in the 140-year-old hideaway, Huberdeau put pen to paper on the largest contract in franchise history: an eight-year, $84-million deal which has an average annual value of $10.5 million starting in 2023-24.
During one of the most tumultuous off-seasons for any sports franchise in recent memory, Calgary landed a bona fide star to add to a team that already has one of the best goalies in Jacob Markstromarguably the deepest defense in the league, several quality forwards, and the reigning NHL Coach of the Year in Darryl Sutter.
“They’re the team that traded for me and you want to play for a team that wants you,” Huberdeau said.
Treliving’s cross-country dinner trek made an impact on Huberdeau.
“He didn’t have to do that,” Huberdeau said. “We could have had a Zoom or something like that, but I think in person, that’s how you get to know someone better and I appreciate it for him to take the time and come see me from Calgary. It’s not a short flight…he flew back right after.
“That made me think that they really care about me and they want me to stay there for a lot of years.”
Huberdeau was sold on Treliving’s vision for the team’s future. The Flames are building to be competitive now.
“I could just tell in his eyes, the way he was talking,” Huberdeau said.
“He wants to build a winning team. He wants to go get players. I think right now, we have a good lineup. Our defense is really good, we have a great goalie. I look throughout the lineup and I think we have a good team. I think he’s excited and he thought I would fit real well in that team.”
“Our team is a mature team so you try to build upon where you’re at,” Treliving said.
Before signing, Huberdeau had to get over the shock of getting traded by the team that drafted him 12 years ago with the third overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft. He took time, but ultimately pushed himself to move forward and embrace the new situation.
“Emotionally, it’s been a rollercoaster for the past few weeks,” he said.
“Obviously, shock with the trade. I was a little down, but at the end of the day you want to look forward in life and that’s what I told myself…it was important to turn the page. Obviously, I played in Florida for a lot of years but I was like, ‘You’ve just got to turn the page.'”
Treliving gave Huberdeau time as well.
“I spoke to him the night of the trade and just said, ‘Relax a little bit,'” Treliving said.
“There’s no big hurry on doing anything. I talked to him the next few days, each day, just to give him a little bit of time to breathe, both him and MacKenzie. Then we said, ‘Let’s get together and learn a little more about each other.'”
While allowing Huberdeau to acclimate to his new team, Treliving was speaking with his agent Allan Walsh about what an extension could look like for his client.
“Allan and I worked at it hard for two weeks and we were able to get it done,” Treliving said.
Huberdeau will make an impact off the ice as well.
Multiple times on Friday, he brought up involvement in the community. As the Flame with the longest contract, he will surely be the centerpiece of marketing efforts in the coming months and years. It is a pressure he will embrace.
“This morning when I woke up, I was like, ‘Did that really happen?'” said Huberdeau, who has registered 613 points, including 198 goals, over 671 regular-season games as well as 21 points in 26 playoff games, all with the Panthers.
“When you start your career, you never know what kind of career you’re going to have. Obviously, I worked hard all my life to deserve that, and I’m just happy, but it’s only the beginning of something good. My goal is to sign the contract, but I also want to win the Stanley Cup. That’s my main goal.”
Treliving, meanwhile, will now get started on talks with Weegar. A source close to Calgary’s newest defenseman said the 28-year-old Ottawa native has a “strong, genuine desire” to remain a Flame beyond this season. Contract talks are expected to start next week.