Matthew Tkachuk and the Panthers advance to the Stanley Cup Finals

Summer of Brad, Spring of Zito: Tkachuk Trade Pays Off

Late into the night of July 22nd, NHL fans were floored to learn of a blockbuster deal between the Florida Panthers and the Calgary Flames. Matthew Tkachuk was being shipped off to Sunrise in exchange for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, and a first-round draft pick. 

As per usual, knee-jerk reactions caused the internet to rush to crown a premature trade winner. The overwhelming sentiment was that the Florida Panthers had been fleeced.

Panthers/Flames Preseason Outlook

Everyone was initially fooled by the trade – except Vegas. As Flames fans spent the offseason planning their Stanley Cup parade route, the Panthers quietly entered the regular season with the third-best odds to hoist the Cup at +900 while Calgary’s price sat at +1800.

Championship odds for both teams shortened following the trade, signifying that the market approved of the deal on both sides. 

Odds to Win the 2022-23 Stanley Cup
DateCalgary FlamesFlorida Panthers
July 21+2200+1000
October 7+1800+900
November 1+900+1100
December 1+1400+1400
January 1+1800+2500
All-Star Break+2000+4000
March 1+2500+4000
April 1+6600+6600

While the books still considered Florida the better team post-trade, they seemed to favor the players that Calgary received in the deal. Huberdeau opened at +1600 (eighth-shortest odds) to win the Hart Trophy, while Weegar boasted a respectable +4000 return to win the Norris Trophy.

Tkachuk, the crown jewel of the deal, was not listed as a Hart Trophy option before the season. Whoops.

Mid-Year Struggles For Both Teams

Florida’s favor with the sportsbooks quickly evaporated as Aleksander Barkov, Sam Bennett and Aaron Ekblad all missed time while Sergei Bobrovsky struggled in goal. By the new year, Florida was 14th in Stanley Cup odds (+2500), a far cry from its expensive preseason price.

A 5-2 start to the season saw Calgary shoot down to a +900 Stanley Cup contender, trailing only the defending champion Colorado Avalanche in betting odds. After carrying a seven-game losing streak into mid-November, however, the club’s odds began to rise again and by January they were back where they started preseason at +1800.

As they navigated their first seasons with their new clubs, the truth came out about the Trade Of The Summer. By mid-march, Tkachuk moved into eighth in the Hart Trophy race (+5000) on the back of an extremely productive season, posting a career-high 109 points.

Huberdeau was nowhere to be found in MVP discussions as everything went wrong in his inaugural Flames campaign. 55 points marks his worst season since he played just 31 games in 2016-17 and his defensive play was atrocious, as usual.

A Tale of Two Wild Card Races 

As of April 1, both the Flames and Panthers seemed to be dead in the water as they shared +6600 odds to win the Stanley Cup. Florida was on the outside looking in as it competed for two spots with the Pittsburgh and the New York Islanders. Calgary ranked 10th in the Western Conference by points percentage, just behind a weak Nashville roster. Neither team controlled their own destiny, and both squads would need some breaks to punch their postseason tickets.

The Panthers caught a break on April 11 when the Blackhawks pulled off a massive +400 upset over the Penguins, allowing Florida to enter the driver’s seat in the Eastern Conference playoff race and eventually clinch its spot.

On the same fateful night, the Flames’ playoff push ended in agony when they suffered a 3-2 shootout defeat to those same weak Predators.

Postseason Success 

The Cats had their work cut out for them after sneaking into the playoffs, as they drew the record-breaking Boston Bruins, who entered the series as a short +325 to win the Cup.

The President’s Trophy curse struck again, though, as Florida mounted a miraculous comeback from a 3-1 series deficit. The Panthers then promptly defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes in just nine total games. Each team was the odds-on Cup favorite entering their series vs Florida, proving Tkachuk’s comments that not many have believed in Florida throughout this run.

Speaking of Tkachuk, the ex-Flame is currently second in Conn Smythe betting at +380. In our extensive research, we couldn’t find Huberdeau or his Calgary Flames on any of the futures odds boards.

Swing Big and Go Home

In Calgary, the fallout from this failed season resulted in Brad Treliving’s departure just days after the season ended.

The contracts that Calgary signed this past offseason are already looking like awful mistakes as the team’s core grows older and their deals look more immovable by the day.

At the risk of crowning a victor too early, like many did last July, it seems Bill Zito (who is nominated for GM of the Year) and the Panthers won this trade by a landslide.

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