Analyzing the Tkachuk for Huberdeau/Weegar trade: Did Flames or Panthers win? – Sportsnet.ca
It’s been a few days since the Flames and Panthers shook up the hockey world with a banger blockbuster trade. It’s not often superstars are on the move in the NHL, and this one saw two switching teams.
When it was clear that Matthew Tkachuk was not willing to sign long-term in Calgary, management took the opportunity to move him to increase the return. Since that sentiment was known, it wouldn’t have been too surprising if they lost leverage and couldn’t maximize the return to the heights of this calibre player. It’s not easy to win a trade as a team moving the best skater in all of it. But there were teams with interest and offers — but clearly, the Panthers were the most enticing.
After first losing Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and Tkachuk via trade, the Flames bring back Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, along with a first-rounder and a prospect (Cole Schwindt). The Panthers, on the other hand, get the best player in all of this and extended him for eight years, at $9.5 million a year on average. So now that the dust has settled a bit and we’ve all have a second to digest the trade, and hear what all players involved (and managers) have had to say, let’s break it all down.
The biggest piece of this deal is obviously Tkachuk, who is coming off a 104-point career-year. With 42 goals on the year — also a career-high — his shooting is a key aspect of his offence. Tkachuk has really smooth hands and can pull off some really stellar plays, even in tight spaces. He can drive to the quality areas of the ice and concentrates most of his shots to the home plate area, even at 5-on-5 when he has less time and space out there. Plus, he can play a net-front role, which contributed to him collecting such a high rate of inner-slot shots. The winger is among the best at creating offence off the cycle thanks to his ability to generate scoring chances.
An underrated aspect of his game is his ability to set up his teammates as well. Tkachuk’s more of a dual-threat than he gets credit for. He sends his teammates a high volume of passes in the offensive zone and can move the puck right to the quality areas of the ice.
Tkachuk is responsible back in his own zone as well, which upgrades that winger slot for Florida. If he ends up playing with Aleksandar Barkov, that’s two elite two-way players on one line. Or, it could create a one-two punch with the duo split between the top-six, whether he’s centered by Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart, or even Anton Lundell for lineup balance.
But there is a ripple effect from this trade, that doesn’t have to do with Tkachuk directly. The loss of Weegar only weakens the Panthers team-defence that was already suspect, which puts more pressure on a starting goaltender who hasn’t always played up to expectations.
On the other side of it, there’s Calgary. After Gaudreau walked, it could have made all the sense in the world to stay a step back and quickly re-tool to extend their window. The Flames did lose their most valuable player, after all. The Tkachuk situation put them in a position to lose both of their superstar forwards.
In Huberdeau, they add one right back. He’s less of a Tkachuk replacement, and has more similarity to Gaudreau, thanks to his puck movement — although there’s a bit of a gap, and much of it shows below the surface.
Despite leading the league in assists (both raw totals and rate), Huberdeau didn’t earn the title of ‘best passer’ in 2021-22 — that was reserved for Gaudreau. The former Panthers’ winger didn’t rank as highly when it came to primary shot assists in all situations, or passes that directly preceded shots, and that showed on the scoresheet as well with a lower percentage of primary helpers.
*Viz from April 20, 2022
Plus, Huberdeau’s 5-on-5 impact wasn’t as strong this past season. That doesn’t change the fact that the Flames added a player who can move the puck better than most in the league. The winger can create shooting lanes for his teammates with his distribution; he puts out a high volume of passes, makes his own lanes to thread the puck to the slot, and completes his pass attempts at a high clip. Plus, Huberdeau has an effective shot when he opts to use it — but not to the extent where he’ll replace Gaudreau, who generated the second best rate of scoring chances off the rush at 5-on-5. Nor does he carry the puck in nearly as much as the former Flame. However, his passing could help keep Elias Lindholm (if paired together) towards the top of the charts in shot attempts off the cycle if he can get him the puck as often as his former linemate. And Bennett, who Huberdeau was often paired with, did generate quite a few scoring chances off the rush in Florida, thanks to help from his teammate’s set ups, so it’s possible that the Flames can find a way to keep those rush shots up.
What helps Calgary’s addition is that they’re a much better team defensively, and that structure should support Huberdeau more than Florida’s riskier style of play. Huberdeau does have some defensive struggles because of his all-offence focus; but within this structure, it shouldn’t standout as much.
Speaking of defence, the Flames addressed that with this trade as well with Weegar. He’s been sound back in his own zone for quite a few seasons, but really has gained appreciation for it in more recent years. Recency bias may say otherwise after some memorable misplays in the playoffs, but those are only a small snippet of his NHL career. And time in Calgary could strengthen his efforts on the backend even more — even if he doesn’t have Aaron Ekblad on his side for support.
Weegar’s defensive efforts start before opponents can even get into the offensive zone; at 5-on-5 he can be counted on to deny entry, whether he steps up in the neutral zone or closes the gap back in his own end to limit scoring chances. The defender does his best to block passing lanes and knock opponents off the puck — whether with his stick or a hit to change possession. Plus, he can help break the puck out of his own end with control.
The question is fit. The Flames already had a pretty solid top-four on defence without Weegar in the mix. Now, technically their top-five is even better. But who shifts to the third pair? Or, does a defender move to make room for Weegar in the top-four, maybe to bring back a forward to address the loss of their other top-six forward? That likely only happens if there’s a guarantee he’s sticking around for more than just the season.
That’s the risky part of this all. Huberdeau and Weegar both just entered the final year of their contracts. And that puts Calgary back to a situation they were just in with key pending unrestricted free agents. But the Flames have options on how to proceed, depending on their priorities for this upcoming season. And in the meantime, they just added two very strong players to their roster who should be in a position to succeed with the team’s defensive structure around.
So neither team walks away from the trade a loser. There’s a downside from both perspectives, but quite a bit of upside thanks to the calibre of the players each squad just added.
Data via Sportlogiq
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Emotional Bianca Andreescu leaves court in wheelchair after injury at Miami Open
Canadian tennis star Bianca Andreescu was forced to leave the court in a wheelchair after suffering an injury during Monday’s match against Ekaterina Alexandrova in the Round of 16 at the Miami Open.
Andreescu officially retired at 6-7, 2-0, winning 75 percent of her points on first serve. With tears in her eyes, she left the court to a standing ovation. Alexandrova, who will face Petra Kvitova in the next round, came over to console a devastated Andreescu as her team prepared for her exit.
“I’ve never felt this kind of pain before,” Andreescu said in agony while the medical team approached.
The 22-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., suffered the injury during the third game of the second set while tracking down a shot.
Andreescu was off to an excellent start to the tournament, defeating Emma Raducanu 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the Round of 128, before proceeding to knock off No. 7 Maria Sakkari 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, then defeating Sofia Kenin in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
This is a potentially devastating injury for Andreescu, who was rounding into form with the summer schedule on the horizon. Andreescu had previously advanced to the Round of 32 in the Indian Wells Masters before losing in straight sets to No. 1 Iga Swiatek in a tightly contested match.
Andreescu has a lengthy history with long-term injuries, suffering a torn meniscus in October 2019, shortly after winning the U.S. Open against childhood hero Serena Williams. Andreescu did not play the entire 2020 season in large part due to the complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, then struggled through the 2021 season. Andreescu missed the opening three months of the 2022 season and struggled with a back injury towards the end of the year.
Andreescu said in a recent interview that she actually contemplated retiring from tennis in 2021.
“That was, honestly, about me wanting to figure out if I really wanted to continue playing tennis,” Andreescu told reporters on Sunday, per The Telegraph. “I was literally about to drop my rackets and say, ‘Screw this.’ I wasn’t happy at all and I wasn’t happy basically for the full year of 2021. I thought, if I continue like this, it’s just going to get worse.”
Those hardships from the past few years have helped Andreescu grow as both a player and a person.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Andreescu told Sportsnet’s Vivek Jacob earlier this month. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot even in the past two months about myself, which is such a great thing about life, you’re constantly growing, you’re constantly learning. The main thing is I want to be able to feel good in my own skin whether I win a match or lose a match.”
Player grades: Edmonton Oilers survive scrambly affair in Arizona, pull out 5-4 win
The Oilers had seemed fully in control with a 4-2 lead after a dominant second period, but that went away in the first 5 minutes of the third. The Oilers managed just a single Grade A shot in that final frame, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins buried that shot on the powerplay to put them back in front by the enventual winning margin.
If the stats are to be believed, this was a stolen win by the Oilers, who were outshot 33-29 and on the short end of Grade A shots by a 19-13 margin, including 10-6 in 5-alarm shots (running count). In each player’s comment we’ll record his individual contributions to Grade A shots (GAS) at both ends of the sheet.
#2 Evan Bouchard, 7. Strong on the attack. Scored the 2-2 goal at even strength on an excellent shot, later set up the game winner on the powerplay with a one-timer that created a dangerous rebound. Perhaps his best play was a lovely delayed stretch pass that sent his partner Ekholm in on a breakaway. Not your standard D-to-D pass. Did have a couple of adventures on defence, wandering way out of position and getting burned for a breakaway that Campbell stopped, later losing a battle in the low slot that resulted in the 4-4. Now has 12 points in 13 games since the big trade on Feb 28. GAS: +3/-4.
#10 Derek Ryan, 5. Quiet night with 0 shots and just 1/6=17% on the dot. Decent on the penalty kill. GAS: +0/-1.
#14 Mattias Ekholm, 7. Played a team-high 24:56 on what was the club’s most effective pairing. Unlucky that the second Arizona goal caromed in off him. Burned on another ‘yotes chance when his hard clearing pass hit a sign on the boards and just died, one of many funky bounces in the old barn Arizona now calls home. Won more than his share of battles, including a couple that set up McDavid’s 2 best chances of the game, both in the first period. Robbed on a breakaway of his own on a full stretch stop by Karel Vejmelka. Also robbed of an assist on Draisaitl’s goal when his pass was deflected from its intended recipient directly to the goal scorer, without possession ever being achieved. Played 24:58 to lead both teams, including 23:01 at even strength. Excellent shot shares. GAS: +4/-4.
#19 Devin Shore, 4. Scoreless in almost 10 minutes, not a bad outcome. Not his best night handling the puck, though. GAS: +0/-0
#21 Klim Kostin, 6. A decent shot on net, a couple of shot blocks, a couple of hits, and a positive influence overall. GAS: +1/-0.
#25 Darnell Nurse, 6. His big moment was scoring the shorthanded goal that gave the Oilers their first lead, joining the rush as a trailer, taking Yamamoto’s drop pass, and overpowering Vejmelka with a wrist shot. Made a great pass to Hyman for another 5-alarm shot. Allowed an outside shot on the sequence that resulted in Arizona’s third goal, and was a better door than window in screening Campbell on a couple of other shots (both stopped). 4 shots, 2 blocks. GAS: +2/-4.
#27 Brett Kulak, 5. His pairing with Desharnais had its struggles at even strength and were badly outshot (+3/-10 in Kulak’s 14 minutes at 5v5), and were dominated in Grade A shots. Managed to saw off 0-0 where it mattered most. Kulak mustered a couple of shots, a hit and a takeaway. GAS: +0/-4.
#29 Leon Draisaitl, 7. Entered the game tied with McDavid and Kane, each with 299 goals. Won the race to 300 when he scored on his only official shot of the game, surprising Vejmelka with a quick-release outside shot through traffic. This after finding iron on a great look from the slot on his previous shift. Set up the game winner by teeing up Bouchard’s one-timer in the third. Also won the powerplay faceoff that led directly to Oilers’ first goal, whough no point awarded on that one. Now up to 46-68-114 on the season, 26 points behind McDavid but 12 clear of third-place Nikita Kucherov. Led the Oilers with 2 blocked shots and with 13/23=57% on the faceoff dot. GAS: +5/-6.
#56 Kailer Yamamoto, 5. Quiet game with 0 shots and 0 hits. Whiffed entirely on his best look, wasting a nice set up by Ekholm. Did find a way to contribute with a nice rush and pass to Nurse on the penalty kill that resulted in the 3-2 goal. GAS: +2/-0.
#72 Nick Bjugstad, 7. Became one of the first NHLers to experience Mullett Arena as both a home and away player. Certainly looked right at home with a very strong effort. Skated extremely well. Earned a secondary assist on the Bouchard goal. Fired 3 shots of his own (6 attempts) and also landed 3 hits, with a takeaway and a block and 5/10=50% on the dot. GAS: +2/-2.
#91 Evander Kane, 4. Skated better, producing 5 shot attempts (2 on net). Involved in the physical aspect, landing a team-high 4 hits. But all too frequently, the play died on his stick. Directly caused a too-many-men penalty when he chose to play the puck right at the player’s gate, even as his replacement had already taken the ice. Screened his own goalie and very likely deflected in the second Arizona goal. No points and -2 on the night. Now a dismal dash-9 on the season, the only current Oiler in red figures. GAS: +2/-3.
#97 Connor McDavid, 5. A couple of early chances, and a great pass to Hyman on the PP for the 1-1, his 140th (!!!) point of the season. Gradually had less impact as the game went on. Beaten on the 4-3 when he wasn’t quite able to cut out the shot. Did land a couple of heavy hits and held his own on the dot at 7/13=54%. GAS: +3/-2.
Look up: 5 planets will align in Tuesday's night sky – CBC.ca
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