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Calgary Flames

No Regrets: Gaudreau Set To Host Flames In Columbus

Johnny Gaudreau left the Calgary Flames for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency and the two meet for the first time on Friday.



All these months later, some still feel jaded by the ultimate rejection. Johnny Gaudreau made the choice to leave the Calgary Flames at the 11th hour on the eve of free agency.
Even then, he considered a return.
It wasn’t until the Columbus Blue Jackets entered the chat that the top draw on the free agent market finally made the conscious decision to depart for good.
In a chat with Postmedia’s Wes Gilbertson following the Blue Jackets’ loss to the Sabres, Gaudreau rehashed the sensitive topic.
“I know a lot of people thought I was just stringing Calgary along but, no, it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make.
“I was sitting there, it was, like, eight o’clock on the night before free agency, and I was still thinking about re-signing in Calgary. I know that a lot of people won’t believe me, but I remember sitting there with my mom and (wife) Meredith, and it was just really, really hard. I didn’t have an answer. I didn’t know what to do.”
What he did was sign a seven-year deal with the Jackets, leaving money on the table with the Flames and reportedly others, too.
But we know all that.
It doesn’t matter if you believe him or not. He and those who know him understand how hard it was to move on.
Then again, the team could have locked him up a full year earlier at a lower price but didn’t want to risk it.
A 115-point season later, he left.
Owing the Flames nothing in a business that favours owners over the players in most circumstances, Gaudreau still struggled to let go.
But there’s no regret now.
“I’ll never say that I didn’t make the right decision,” he said. “But it was time for me to go a different direction, I guess.”
His choice was so much more than hockey. He became a father when daughter Noa arrived in October, and his extended family is a short plane ride or eight-hour drive away.
Gaudreau said his dad hasn't missed a game yet and that his sister and nieces have been out a couple of times as well.
Because of border closures and travel restrictions during the pandemic, there was a long period of time when visiting Calgary was impossible.
That is something guys like Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk will never take for granted again.
“At the end of the day, I felt what was best for me was to play a bit closer to home, to spend a lot more time with my family, see people that I don’t get to see a lot throughout the year. And it’s been great. That was what was important to me.”
People have joked that winning clearly wasn't.
The Blue Jackets are in the mix for the Connor Bedard lottery at the moment with the second worst point percentage and a 8-15-2 record.
He left the Calgary Flames after the team won the Pacific Division title and got to the second round thanks to Gaudreau's winning goal in Game 7 overtime against the Dallas Stars — something he'll always be remembered for.
Without him, the Flames are missing a bit of spark. They don't have a dynamic puck carrier. And they lost his linemate Matthew Tkachuk a few weeks later, leading to some growing pains through the first quarter of the season in Calgary.
None of that matters Friday, when a night after sharing some quality time with his former teammates, Gaudreau will be going for the jugular against his former teammates.
His stats have been steady — nine goals and 28 points through 25 games.
And he's going to be around for a long time. The winning may have to wait. But if it comes, he'll be a big part of it.
“The core group of guys in here are pretty young,” Gaudreau said. “It reminds me of me, Mony (Sean Monahan), Chucky (Tkachuk), Benny (Sam Bennett), younger guys that were in Calgary for a while. And these young kids are going to do exactly what we went through. They’re good players. We have a little bit of learning to do as a team, but they’re skilled players and they’re going to be in this league for a long time, so I’m excited to watch ’em."
"It’s just a different time now.”

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