CALGARY – Given the heart-pounding ride Jonathan Huberbeau and Brad Treliving have both been on lately, it’s no wonder the two got together at dinner last night.
The duo had plenty to pack when they broke bread Monday at Montreal’s Bar George, where a foundation of trust was built between a franchise player and a GM that led to Thursday’s eight-year $84 million extension with the Flames.
The biggest deal in franchise history brought the neatest of bows to a tumultuous fortnight in which both sides turned a period of massive upheaval into a positive outcome few could have fathomed.
The player got his dream contract and the team stabilized his future with a talented pillar to build on.
Despite the loss of two of the franchise’s most notable stars, Calgary is now full of optimism and intrigue.
And much of it has to do with Huberdeau’s long-term commitment, reinforcing the belief of many that Treliving’s return to the Matthew Tkachuk trade has put the franchise’s fortunes on a dime.
With a four-player return, including MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, a first-rounder and Huberdeau, Treliving turned a teetering organization on the brink of rebuilding into one of the league’s most compelling re-tools in decades.
With Huberdeau’s signature, the deal looks even better.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there were some challenges,” Treliving chuckled about his hellish month.
“A wise man once told me, ‘A lot of guys can hit the fastball, but who can hit the curve determines how long you stay close.’ We got a few turns and we just tried to dig in and make a swing.”
A few twists and turns, as in two franchise players seeking greener pastures within weeks of each other.
Since then, Treliving has convinced Andrew Mangiapane to stay for another three years (at $5.8 million AAV), Oliver Kylington for two more years (at $2.5 million AAV), and now Huberdeau, which is the merits of the deal that gave him here brought further strengthened.
“The idea of drawing Huberdeau wasn’t to turn the story around,” said Treliving, who insisted the pressure to ink him right away had nothing to do with erasing myths about players wanting to leave Calgary.
“I get it, we went through the situation with a few players who made a decision and it happened back-to-back. This is not an ongoing thing that people can’t wait to get out of Calgary.”
“I don’t blame anyone. That is solely at the player’s right. I said it that day, it kind of pisses you off when you hear it because I don’t think that’s the story. Listen, (Huberdeau) has done his homework. He clearly got a very good contract and we have a very good player for many years.”
Huberdeau admitted on Friday that he needed time to process it all before realizing that a way forward could be fruitful for everyone.
“Emotionally it’s been a rollercoaster the last few weeks,” smiled Huberdeau, about the blockbuster trade from Florida two weeks earlier that hit him harder than any errant beach frisbee ever could.
“Of course shocked by the trade. I was a little down, but at the end of the day you want to look forward in life. That’s what I told myself and my family. It was important to turn the page for good and focus on the new team.”
Huberdeau explained why he chose to plunge into an eight-year extension without dipping his toe in Calgary first.
“I know it’s a good city to play hockey in and the community is great,” said the left winger, who will fit seamlessly into the vacancy to the left of the only player who equaled him with 115 points last year, Gaudreau.
“I asked a lot of questions to a lot of people, but in the end I wanted to sign for the long term. They traded for me and I know they wanted me, and they spoke highly of me. When you hear that you want to play for a team that wants you.”
“That’s why it was so important to me to show dedication to them, and I already want to give something back to the community. I look forward to getting there and learning more about the city.”
The fact that Treliving and assistant GM Don Maloney jumped on a plane earlier this week to meet him in his native Quebec meant a lot to the playmaker.
They didn’t talk about numbers because it was just an introductory dinner.
Contract talks with Allan Walsh intensified after Huberdeau’s message that he felt comfortable moving forward.
“I can just see in his eyes the way he talked that he wants to win now,” said Treliving’s Huberdeau.
“He wants to build a winning team. He wants to get players. Right now we have a good line-up. Our defense is really good and we have a great goalkeeper, and you look at our line-up and we’re just a good team .”
“He made me think I would fit very well in that line-up. He wants to win for many more years and I liked that.”
After signing late on Thursday, Huberdeau said he woke up on Friday chuckling at his luck.
“This is just the start of something good,” said Huberdeau, who was also bolstered by talks with coach Darryl Sutter.
“My goal was to sign a long-term contract, but my main goal is to win a Stanley Cup. It’s pretty crazy. When I woke up this morning I thought ‘that really happened.’”
Soon, when the adrenaline of the past month has subsided, Treliving will probably say the exact same thing.