Last offseason, Johnny Gaudreau shocked the hockey world by choosing to sign a seven-year, $68.25 million deal as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets, leaving the Calgary Flames after eight seasons.
While Flames fans were extremely disappointed, many of them had the inkling that the 29-year-old was headed elsewhere, as did most fans around the league. Teams like the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers and even the New York Islanders were rumoured to be the top fits, though seemingly no one had imagined the Blue Jackets were on his radar. That decision irked Flames fans, who took it as a sign that Gaudreau had absolutely zero intention of returning to Calgary. According to a recent report from The Daily Faceoff's Frank Seravalli, however, that does not seem to be the case.
Speaking on the Flames Nation ‘Barnburner’ Podcast, Seravalli dove into Gaudreau’s decision to leave the team last July. As the trusted insider put it, Gaudreau was truly conflicted on whether to return to the Flames or head elsewhere, to the point where the day before he signed with the Blue Jackets, he believed he was going to re-up with Calgary.
“I don’t even think it was Johnny. I don’t think Johnny had any issue coming back. I think he wanted to come back,” Seravalli said. “In fact, not to relitigate this again, but the Flames the day before thought that he was coming back. There was an afternoon sort of buzz and spring in everyone’s step as the hours dragged on before free agency where they thought they were getting him back. They had negotiated the contract, gotten to where everyone was comfortable with numbers, and then Johnny Gaudreau went on a car ride with his wife and then called the Flames back tearfully and said, ‘sorry, I can’t do this’.”
— Robert Munnich (@RingOfFireCGY) March 14, 2023
This has to be gut wrenching to hear for Flames fans, many of whom considered Gaudreau to be their franchise player throughout his eight-year tenure with the team. Him choosing to leave played a ripple effect on the organization, as Matthew Tkachuk then forced his way out soon after with a trade to the Florida Panthers, which resulted in some new faces such as Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar and Nazem Kadri being brought in. The new group has failed to have the same success of a season ago, as they currently sit six points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final wild card position in the Western Conference.
Gaudreau has registered 15 goals and 57 points in 63 games with the Blue Jackets this season.