It’s official. The Calgary Flames have been dumped.
And the heartbreak was all over Flames GM Brad Treliving’s face when he assembled the media via Zoom to share the already-out-there news.
“It’s a disappointing day, to say the very least,” said a raw-eyed Treliving on Tuesday evening.
The reports over the past few weeks and days painted a picture of trepidation. Easy geographical guesswork has had the hockey world connecting the Calgary Flames’ eight-year veteran offensive dynamo Johnny Gaudreau with his home state New Jersey Devils, childhood favourite Philadelphia Flyers, and the nearby New York Islanders.
Treliving said months ago the franchise would move heaven and earth to bring the 28-year-old winger back. And he swears they did everything possible.
Recent reports suggested the Flames put up $9.5 million, then double-digit offers in front of Gaudreau.
Taking the negotiations to the final hours ahead of free agency, Gaudreau finally made up his mind. He made what might have been the tougher of the two choices and said he was ready to move on.
Why would hitting the open market and driving up his AAV be the more difficult decision to make? On top of the financial total the Flames could offer with the extra eighth year, the franchise unexpectedly won the Pacific Division title this season and got to the second round of the playoffs for just the second time since 2004. Under coach-of-the-year Darryl Sutter, Gaudreau scored a career-high 40 goals and 115 points to finish tied for second in the Art Ross race behind only playoff nemesis Connor McDavid.
The team was eyeballing another step forward in the playoffs next year.
Now, Gaudreau faces uncertainty. If he chooses one of the previously rumoured markets, there’s no telling how long it may take for the team to be as competitive.
He could choose another — the league’s the limit now — and find the balance between hockey and home life he’s looking for.
Married last year, Gaudreau is going to be a first-time father in the coming months, too.
“I don’t want to speak for John and I won’t speak for John but it’s my strong belief that this was a family decision,” Treliving said. “And I respect that. John has every right and we have nothing but respect for John the player and John the person.”
As with most breakups, the one left behind feels a deeper sting.
“It’s difficult right now. It’s difficult. The hard part of this business is we do have to move on. I had a good, long discussion with John. It was an emotional one,” Treliving said.
“We did everything possible to keep John here.”
In the end, it still wasn’t enough.