By TIM REYNOLDS
AP Sports Writer
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — Matthew Tkachuk is being traded to the Florida Panthers, part of a blockbuster that sends Jonathan Huberdeau to the Calgary Flames in a swap of players who are each coming off the best season of their careers, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said Friday night.
Tkachuk will sign an extension with Florida as well, said the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade had not been finalized. Tkachuk decided earlier in the week that he would not accept such a deal to stay in Calgary — which immediately led to trade talks and no shortage of suitors around the NHL wanting to land him.
The Panthers, a team that won the President’s Trophy this past season for having the NHL’s best regular-season record, apparently wanted him more than most.
They gave up Huberdeau, Florida’s career leader in games, assists and points, to make it happen — along with defenseman MacKenzie Weegar, with other assets also to be involved in the trade. The move also breaks up one of the top duos in hockey, after Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov formed a 1-2 punch like few others with Florida in recent years.
But it never translated into the type of playoff success that Florida is seeking. The Panthers won a playoff series this past season for the first time since 1996, then got swept by Tampa Bay in the second round and scored only three goals in those four games.
Tkachuk had career bests of 42 goals, 62 assists and 104 points this past season for Calgary. Huberdeau tied a career best with 30 goals for Florida, plus set marks with 85 assists and 115 points — both of those being franchise records for the Panthers as well.
The trade means Calgary is without its two leading scorers from this past season. Johnny Gaudreau, who led the Flames with 115 points, signed a seven-year deal with Columbus as a free agent last week.
Huberdeau also was extension-eligible this summer, and the Panthers had a decision to make — commit to him with a long-term, big-money deal, or look to make another splashy move.
Tkachuk is 24, Huberdeau is 29, and that surely was something that went into Florida’s thinking when deciding about making an eight-year commitment. The age is one of the few things that separates Tkachuk and Huberdeau on paper: both are about 6-foot-2, both about 200 pounds, both are left wings, both have averaged about nine points for every 10 games played in their NHL careers, Huberdeau was the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, Tkachuk the No. 6 pick in the 2016 draft.
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