Panthers are Winning the Matthew Tkachuk Trade


The Florida Panthers are continuing to claw their way to a playoff spot. They currently sit one point behind the Pittsburgh Penguins with a record of 25-22-6 with 58 points. However, the Penguins have four games in hand on the Panthers.

One of the big reasons the team has done well all season long was due to their big offseason acquisition in forward Matthew Tkachuk. Because of his performance alone, it’s clear the Panthers are winning the trade that sent massive ripples throughout the NHL.

Tkachuk, Cah-Ching!

Tkachuk is having the time of his life in Broward County, Florida. Through 50 games, he currently leads the team in assists with 44, rating with plus-16 and points with 71. Furthermore, he is second on the team in goals with 27, one behind Carter Verhaeghe. Additionally, his point and assist totals both make for fifth in the NHL in those departments.

Matthew Tkachuk Florida Panthers
Matthew Tkachuk was one point shy of tying the Florida Panthers’ franchise record for most points in a game in Feb. 6 against the Tampa Bay Lightning (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last weekend, he was named the All-Star MVP for scoring four goals and tallying three assists through the 3-on-3 tournament in front of the hometown crowd. If he keeps up this performance, he’ll easily have a statue of him outside of FLA Live Arena in the future.

Huberdeau? More Like, Huber-don’t.

On the other side of the coin, Calgary Flames forward Jonathan Huberdeau is not putting up anywhere near the same level of production as he did during his time as a Panther. Through 48 games this season, Huberdeau has 10 goals and 23 assists. Granted, it makes for fifth in points among all Flames. But, his rating is a minus-1. This is shocking considering he finished last season with a plus-34 rating and had the best point total in Panthers history with 115 (30 goals, 85 assists). In addition, he has the same number of goals as Panthers forward Eric Staal, who is currently on their fourth line.

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As of now, he is nowhere near replicating the same pace he was on last season. There is still a ton of time to go in the season, but it is not looking good right now for Huberdeau.

Weegar is Off His Game

Defenseman MacKenzie Weegar also hasn’t seemed up to par with his abilities since leaving Sunrise. Through 51 games this season, he scored one goal and assisted on 14 others while have a rating of only plus-2. By weight of comparison, he finished last regular season with a plus-40 rating and he’s not even close to that at this moment in time.

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In addition to his overall rating being not so great, he’s only gone over plus-1 in a game five times this season. There’s still time to right the ship for his season, but it is not looking so good.

Tkachuk’s Contract has Better Value

Once the trade was finished, Tkachuk inked a new deal worth $76 million with an annual average (AAV) of $9.5 million per season for the next eight seasons. Not long after, Huberdeau signed a new contract worth $84 million with an AAV of $10.5 million for eight years.

Because Tkachuk is younger, and will be 33 at the end of the deal, Florida easily got someone coming off of a career year that could be a big piece of their roster for years to come. On the other side of the border, Huberdeau is 29 and will be 37 by the time his contract is over. It is unknown if his production will fall off, but age will be a big factor in deciding if and how much it does.

Will Florida Continue to Win the Trade?

As of now, Florida looks as if they got away like bandits in the night with this blockbuster deal. However, the Panthers are still fighting to get into a playoff spot with very little room for error while Calgary is tied for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference with the team their tied with, the Minnesota Wild, having a game in hand.

“I’ve really, really enjoyed his game all season long,” Panthers forward Eric Staal said of Tkachuk. “He’s been elite all year. I love all aspects of his attitude, how he approaches the game. This was a big game. He knew it, and he came to play. He was obviously a huge player for us. He makes a ton of elite plays with the puck. His hands are some of the best I’ve seen around the net. It’s just fun to watch him play. But there’s other aspects. He’s got some grittiness to him. He’s involved. He’s a great teammate and one of those guys you love to have.”

Panthes forward Eric Stall on Matthe Tkachuk’s five-point performance in a 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting on Feb. 6

But with Tkachuk seeming to find a new burst of life in South Florida, general manager Bill Zito is looking like a genius. The only question that remains is simply: will that success continue or will the Panthers have made a regrettable decision?

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