« I’m really, really happy here in Florida » -Matthew Tkachuk

SUNRISE | Matthew Tkachuk wore a white short-sleeved shirt, blue shorts and flip-flops as he met reporters after exiting optional practice at the FLA Live Arena.

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Tkachuk, who hails from St. Louis, Missouri, had the perfect Floridian look. He fit in perfectly with his new environment.

In Calgary, he would not have had the chance to take out his flip flops at the end of December. When the Canadian last visited Alberta, it was freezing cold with temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius.

When asked to describe the major adjustments between a Canadian market like Calgary and a team in the southern United States, Tkachuk was quick to allude to the weather.

« The sun is definitely the biggest difference with Calgary, » he said with a smile. There is also less noise from outside. But it starts again when there are Canadian journalists in town! »

« The biggest difference is off the ice, » he continued. When we come to the arena, we have a business spirit. We have high goals, we want to win. The Panthers have built a good culture in recent seasons. I am lucky to find myself in this environment. I like this. I’m really, really happy here in Florida. »

A monster transaction

On July 22, the Panthers and Flames completed the biggest trade in years. Bill Zito changed the image of his team by acquiring Tkachuk against Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weeger.

Before leaving for Florida, Tkachuk signed a lucrative eight-year, $76 million ($9.5 million average) contract with Flames general manager Brad Treliving.

« The transaction wasn’t as big of a shock as people thought it was, » Tkachuk said. I suspected it was to happen. »

Behind the bench for the Panthers since the start of the season, Paul Maurice simply summed up this immense pact.

“When you look at Tkachuk’s trade for Huberdeau: we were losing a player who was producing a lot of points, but we were adding another player who was also producing a lot of points. Outside of ‘Hubby’, we’ve lost other players who had big impacts. »

In his last season in Calgary, Tkachuk had 104 points (42 goals, 62 assists) in 82 games, while Huberdeau had 115 points (30 goals, 85 assists) in 80 games in Florida.

A team looking for itself

On a strictly hockey level, the Panthers have not met expectations since the start of the season. Last year’s President’s Trophy winners with 122 points aren’t in the playoff picture yet.

Before the CH visit, they posted a disappointing record of 15-16-4.

According to Tkachuk, the Panthers have the talent to bounce back.

“We haven’t had a healthy team since the start of the year,” explained the robust 25-year-old winger. We are now back to normal. When we’re healthy, I choose our team to beat any other team in the NHL. I hope we can now go on a winning streak. We want to climb the rankings. »

“Before the start of the year, we constantly talked about last year,” added Maurice. We have to overcome this stage. We are a different team this year. Last year, people often said the Panthers didn’t face enough adversity this season. For this year, we have had enough adversity. There are several players who have missed significant blocks of matches. »

In the event of a failure in their quest to participate in the playoffs, the Panthers would make the happiness of Jeff Gorton and Kent Hughes. Last year, Zito sacrificed his first-round pick in the 2023 draft to get defenseman Ben Chiarot. And the DG did not protect his choice. In other words, the CH could win the lottery with this selection.


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