CALGARY, AB -- The Jiri Huder era in Calgary is gone but not forgotten.
The Flames dealt the veteran winger to the Florida Panthers on Saturday -- three days prior to the NHL trade deadline -- in exchange for a pair of draft picks.
Hudler's contract was set to expire in the summer and with plenty of work to do with re-signing some of his key players in the coming off-season, Flames general manager Brad Treliving elected to cash in Hudler for some future assets rather than face the possibility of losing him for nothing when the 32-year-old hits free agency.
The irony is two of the key players Treliving needs to lock-up are the very two that Hudler mentored for better part of the past two years -- Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
I remember walking to the back of the plane and I was going to go talk to them. Huds knew what I was doing and stopped me and said ‘I got it, they’re going to be fine. I got it’." - Brad Treliving
Both players have become cornerstone pieces in the road map for the Flames future and both players are set to become restricted free agents in the summer and will need new contracts.
It will be one of Treliving's priorities to get the pair signed but a big key to the success they have both had early on in their careers is due to the tutelage of Hudler.
Hudler immediately took Monahan under his wing when the fresh-faced 18-year-old arrived for his first NHL training camp in Calgary. Monahan stayed with Hudler for a short time before settling in and the two became close friends.
Monahan went on to score 22 goals in his rookie campaign and eclipsed the 30-goal mark last season, playing alongside Hudler for much of it.
When Gaudreau entered the league and cracked the Flames roster straight out of his first NHL training camp, Hudler was there to show him the ropes and guide him through the ups and downs of being a professional in the NHL.
"I think he had a big impact," said Treliving, who met with the media briefly Saturday at Scotiabank Saddledome. "The impact he brings is that he’s a skilled player. That skill level I think helped drive them. He was talking to them all the time, sometimes they even understood what he was saying."
Monahan and Gaudreau also helped Hudler put together the best season of his 11-year NHL career last year. Hudler led the NHL in even strength points and finished the season tied for seventh in NHL scoring with 31 goals and 76 points in 78 games.
His goal and point total were both career highs.
The three players together were a good fit but it was Hudler who steering the ship for much of their tenure together.
"The one thing that I always said about Jiri that I think is under-appreciated is that he’s a real competitive player and a real competitive person," Treliving said. "Many times you get back to the bench he’d let you know when he didn’t think things were good enough. I think that drove them a lot."
The trio were a big factor in the Flames qualifying for the playoffs last season for the first time in six years. They played a big role in the playoff-clinching game against the Los Angeles Kings and it was Hudler who scored a pair of goals, including an empty-net marker to propel Calgary into the post-season.
Monahan and Gaudreau both drew assists on the play that send the Saddledome crowd into a frenzy in what was one of the most exciting moments for the franchise in the last decade.
"As much as that line has had a lot of success it wasn’t a line that was together for two full years," Treliving stated. "They seemed to have instant chemistry when they were put together in the middle of last year that Bob put them together but I think he’s had a big impact on both guys."
The trio was uncharacteristically quiet in the first two games of the opening round of the playoffs against the Vancouver Canucks. Calgary took Game 1 by a score of 2-1 but were outplayed and lost 4-2 in Game 2.
Gaudreau and Monahan each collected a point, Hudler was pointless for the second straight game.
"I was asked earlier today about one thing that stood out and it was after Game 2 in the Vancouver series," Treliving recalled. "Many of [the media] talked about the struggles that Sean and Johnny were having and I remember walking to the back of the plane and I was going to go talk to them. Huds knew what I was doing and stopped me and said ‘I got it, they’re going to be fine. I got it’.
"He had that ability. I think he did a lot of good things for him."