Fire the cannon.
As first reported by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, Johnny Gaudreau has shocked the hockey world by signing a seven-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaudreau will reportedly earn a shade less than $10 million per season throughout the life of the deal, which is set to make him the highest-profile acquisition in the team's history.
Gaudreau left the Calgary Flames after an immensely productive 2021-22 season, which saw him score 40 goals and threaten for the Art Ross Trophy with 115 points. His line with Elias Lindholm and Matthew Tkachuk was one of the very best in the NHL and lifted the Flames to a Pacific Division title.
He spent eight seasons in Calgary contributing at over a point per game throughout his tenure, which included north of 600 games. He informed the franchise on the eve of free agency that he was testing the market before agreeing to terms with Columbus.
Gaudreau has long been connected to a move to the east coast, even if there was hope that he would stick around for the long term in Calgary. For that reason he was expected to surface in the Metropolitan Division. However, most believed he would land in either Philadelphia or New Jersey as a native of Salem, N.J.
It's believed both the Flyers and Devils were involved in the process, but each failed to net an agreement with the dynamic scoring winger.
What's most confusing is that this seems to be a decision not directly rooted in family, money, or loyalty. Gaudreau will still be miles from his hometown despite the move east, and apparently left a shocking amount of money on the table through the process from both Calgary and New Jersey.
Sounds like Johnny Gaudreau left somewhere between $15-17.5 million on the table in Calgary by choosing Columbus, depending on final total.
Not sure anyone saw that coming.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) July 13, 2022
Gaudreau is unlikely to step into a situation with the same prospects of success in comparison to Calgary.
The Blue Jackets are still very much recovering from the losses of Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky several seasons ago. However, they have laid the groundwork in the rebuilding process, and may provide the sort of environment for Gaudreau to lead the team to success in the near future. Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, Adam Boqvist, Jake Bean, and David Jiricek are among impressive prospects recently added to the Blue Jackets' system.
Ironically, the Flames are now facing a situation similar to that of the Blue Jackets several seasons ago when Panarin left. Brad Treliving is now faced with a massive decision on the direction for the franchise after Gaudreau's departure, in addition to the threat of Tkachuk leaving in the near future.
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