If there’s one thing you can say about Matthew Tkachuk, it’s that he knows his way around a microphone.
The Florida Panthers’ newest arrival took part in his introductory press conference Monday. The 24-year old supernova inked an eight-year, $76 million deal after arriving from the Flames via trade last week.
Tkachuk was all smiles as he discussed his goals and ambitions with the Panthers. Many of those goals centered around beating Florida’s cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I hate Edmonton, but I hate Tampa more now,” said Tkachuk.
Tkachuk is used to rivalry games. He spent the first six seasons of his career in Calgary, battling with provincial foes Edmonton and Vancouver for bragging rights.
Those teams weren’t perennial Stanley Cup contenders, though. The Lightning are a legitimate threat, coming off their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearance. They also have beaten the Panthers in two of their last three postseason runs.
“I’m excited for those games,” Tkachuk said.
They’re the team to beat. It seems like for us we’re going to have to go through them at some point, so I’m excited for that challenge. They know what it takes to win, and we’re going to learn that.
Florida is learning to win sooner rather than later, it must be said. The Panthers notched their first President’s Trophy in franchise history last year. Although they dealt 115-point scorer Jonathan Huberdeau and first-line defenseman MacKenzie Weegar to acquire Tkachuk, the newest Panther has faith that he can bring the right attitude to help the Panthers grow on and off the ice.
“I bring a certain swagger that will really help this team [on the ice]. Off ice, I have the same personality,” Tkachuk said.
I’m excited for the chance to grow the game down here. I hope that in a few years, nobody on the team can walk outside without somebody saying something to them, like how it is in some of the other places around the league.
In the meantime, Tkachuk’s focus is simple: getting the Panthers to the top of the NHL totem pole. It’s an objective he says he’s more than excited to be a part of.
“I want to be here. Like, this wasn’t me just getting traded and me having no say — I chose this,” Tkachuk said. “I really want this to work, and I’m just excited for the possibility of winning here in South Florida.”