For Jonathan Huberdeau, there was no other option.
The Flames’ newly acquired cornerstone winger has made a commitment to Calgary, signing an eight-year extension that carries an average annual value of $10.5M.
The NHL’s reigning assist leader – who had 85 apples and tallied 115 points, in all, with the Florida Panthers last year – will remain in red through the 2030-31 campaign.
In one of the wildest off-seasons in franchise history, Flames fans can now officially rejoice.
The window remains open, but a new era begins now.
“You want to play for a team that wants you,” Huberdeau said as he addressed the media over Zoom Friday. “It was important (to make a commitment like this). They traded for me and they wanted me, and they were talking highly about me. You know, when you hear that, you want to play for a team that wants you and that’s why it was so important to me.
“I think it shows dedication to them and I want to give back to the community already. I’m excited to go there and get to know the city a little bit more.”
The signing comes less than a week after Flames GM Brad Treliving travelled all the way to Montreal to meet with the all-star playmaker. The two had never met previously, and while it was initially billed as a get-to-know-you-type dinner, the pair hit it off, with Huberdeau leaving the meal convinced of both his, and the team’s future.
“I could tell with the look in his (Treliving’s) eyes,” Huberdeau said. “The way we were talking, he wants to win right now, he wants to build a winning team and he wants to get good players.
“It meant a lot. It could have been a Zoom or something like that. But I think, as a person, that’s how you get to know someone better and I appreciate it, for him to take the time to come and see me from Calgary. It’s not a short flight and we had a great conversation. That made me really think that they really care about me and they want me to stay there for a lot of years.”
Huberdeau, who was drafted by the Panthers in 2011 and spent the first 10 years of his career establishing himself in the Sunshine State, was initially rocked by next summer, but hadn’t truly considered the possibility of leaving.
That emotional upheaval soon turned to elation, with the Saint-Jerome, Que. native picturing a new chapter at home in Canada, with a winning team poised to contend, planting roots and bolstering a personal legacy.
“At the end of the day, you want to look forward and that’s what I told myself and my family,” Huberdeau said. “It was important to turn the page. Obviously, I played in Florida for a lot of years. I was like, ‘You know I want commitment and I want to turn the page for good and focus on the new team,’ and that’s why I wanted to sign. It’s a great city to play in and what’s why I wanted to get it done.
“And I’m excited to be here.”
Huberdeau has yet to arrive in the Stampede City, but will soon begin his housing search in advance of training camp next month. Aside from visiting only once a year with the Panthers – which he’d done only seven times in his career – Huberdeau doesn’t know much about the town.
But he had plenty of friends that either reached out or were lending an ear when he pressed to learn more about his new hockey home.
The included former Flames goaltender Louis Domingue, who spent one season with the club and appeared in only one game, but was thoroughly impressed by what Calgary – and the Flames – have to offer.
“Some guys, obviously, said it was a great city, the best city in Canada,” Huberdeau said. “Being Canadian, I’m super excited.”
Ditto, here, in the C of Red.
On the hockey side, the fit couldn’t be better. The 6-foot-1, 202-lb. forward is arguably the best passer in the game today. He’ll slot right in, replacing Johnny Gaudreau on Elias Lindholm‘s left wing, while bringing an element of speed that will transform the look of that line compared to last year’s version.
His 115 points last year were tied with Gaudreau for second in the league – and he did it in two fewer games.
Now, he eyes even a greater bounty as a member of the Flames.
“The way my career has gone, I always wanted to play better year after year,” he said. “So, that’s the same attitude I have this year – I want to be better than I was last year, and so on and so on.
“I think I’m more mature and at my age, I know what we have to do to get better.
“We want to win, and I’m going to give everything I have so we can win the Stanley Cup.”