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Cats Slapshot: Tkachuk-Huberdeau Trade Costly Now, But Worth it for Florida's Future

On the surface, it's a move that some Panthers fans might think is crazy

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Last week on this very website, I wrote a column on how the Florida Panthers had made several moves with the start of free agency that left plenty to be desired. Late Friday night, the Cats took that a step further.

In what was arguably one of the biggest trades in franchise history, Florida dealt one of the team's longtime stars - forward Jonathan Huberdeau - along with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, a prospect and a draft pick to the Calgary Flames for forward Matthew Tkachuk.

On the surface, it's a move that some Panthers fans might think is crazy. How on Earth are you going to get back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs without the man who broke the franchise record in assists and points scored for a team that won the President's Trophy last season?

In reality, it's not as bad as those fans might think it is at this point. Tkachuk had more goals last season (42 to Huberdeau's 30 goals) for a Flames team that went to the same round of the playoffs as Florida. He's also five years younger and, at 24, won't have his next birthday until the Panthers' 28th game of the upcoming season.

In reality, like most things in this world, this was a money move if we've ever seen one.

Huberdeau was set for a big payday after this upcoming season, his final one under contract with Florida. After the Panthers gave a big money deal to captain Aleksander Barkov last summer, they may have been slightly more hesitant to give another 10+ year deal out at this time.

It's one of the reasons Florida seems to be letting go of players that led them to the first playoff series win since 1996. Names like Huberdeau, Claude Giroux, Ben Chiarot and more will be playing somewhere else next season - the flip side of the salary cap for this upcoming season the the Panthers remain $3.3 million over the limit.

Will Huberdeau's leadership be missed this upcoming season? Probably. But even with that, someone of Tkachuk's ability - and getting him to sign through the 2029-30 season - is something that Florida could not pass up.

It's something that also means Florida likely will not repeat as the team with the NHL's best record last season, but it's the start of building something that could bring them something more important: the Stanley Cup.

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