It’s been an interesting summer to say the least for both the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames. While the Oilers were quick out of the gate in free agency, signing goaltender Jack Campbell as well as re-signing forward Evander Kane and defenceman Brett Kulak, the Calgary Flames had their share of free agency drama followed by what might be the biggest trade of the NHL offseason. The Flames lost free agent forward Johnny Gaudreau for nothing when he signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 13, leaving the Flames organization and their fans in disbelief.
Then word came that prized winger Matthew Tkachuk indicated that he wanted out of Calgary. Things looked pretty bleak for the Flames’ faithful until general manager Brad Treliving pulled a rabbit out of the hat when he arranged a trade with the Florida Panthers. The Flames shipped the feisty Tkachuk to the Panthers for forwards Jonathan Huberdeau and Cole Schwindt, defenceman MacKenzie Weegar and a first-round draft pick in 2025. Not a bad deal for the Flames considering they had already lost Johnny Hockey and were losing Tkachuk.
For as bleak as it looked for the Flames in mid-July, Oilers fans should be careful about holding their noses in the air about the Flames losing Gudreau and Tkachuk. Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid’s contracts are both coming up for renewal in the next two or three years. If no progress is made towards winning a Stanley Cup while these two superstars are in their prime, Oilers fans could potentially see a similar situation to the Flames.
The pain of losing star players is something Oilers fans have known well over the decades, first with the loss of Wayne Gretzky, then Mark Messier and even players like Doug Weight and more recently Hall of Fame defenceman Chris Pronger. The Pronger trade was a real punch in the gut for Oilers fans, as the talented defenceman had requested a trade back in 2006 after leading the Oilers to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.
It took well over a decade for the Oilers to rebuild and make the playoffs again, and if history were to repeat itself with Draisaitl or McDavid, it would be a tough pill to swallow. But, the Oilers might not ever get there with their two prized centermen. Time will tell, and more playoff success will most likely dictate their futures and the future of the Oilers organization. As for the Flames, they have to hope they can sign both Huberdeau and Weegar to longer-term deals as both players are unrestricted free agents at the end of the 2022-23 NHL regular season.
A New Era in the Battle of Alberta
With the loss of Matthew Tkachuk, and the Oilers having traded Zack Kassian to Arizona earlier this July, the Battle of Alberta will definitely lose a bit of the bite that both players brought. With the addition of Huberdeau and Weegar, the Flames may actually be better in the short term. It might be fair to say that the Flames were not going to win a Stanley Cup with Gaudreau. Tkachuk on the other hand could’ve been a different story.
Time will tell how good the Flames will be in the 22-23 NHL season. They were a solid team in 2021-22, and were underestimated by many of the hockey pundits at the beginning of last season. With veteran coach Daryll Sutter at the helm, you have to expect the Flames to come out with a chip on their shoulder, and this could very well carry them into the playoffs again.
The Oilers are still waiting on getting the remaining pieces of their roster in place before training camp. Oilers general manager Ken Holland and assistant general manager Brad Holland have some work to do in managing the salary cap. Kailer Yamamoto, and Ryan McLeod still need signing and another rugged defenceman might still be on the Oilers’ wish list. This could lead to a trade to shed some salary. That means that winger Warren Foegle or defenceman Tyson Barrie could be on the way out. With the solid job that the Holland has done so far this offseason, Oilers fans are curiously awaiting management’s next moves.
As for the Battle of Alberta, as a fan you have to hope some new faces step up to take the places of Tkachuk and Kassian. The swagger and energy they both brought to the BOA will be missed and both NHL fan bases in Alberta deserve an intense and spirited rivalry. Who will the new instigators be? Time will tell.
D. Edward Bochon covers the Edmonton Oilers. His background is in marketing writing where he worked with the Edmonton Oilers, the Edmonton Football Club (now known as the Elks), and the Edmonton Rush of the NLL.