Johnny Gaudreau said he’d like to stay. Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving said he’d move heaven and earth to keep him.
So what’s taking so long?
Welcome to the business side of hockey, where leverage is everything.
The reality is Gaudreau’s next contract is guesswork until the ink is dry. In some ways, the Calgary Flames are negotiating against themselves with any offers tabled prior to July 13. Unless they’ve given Gaudreau’s agent permission to speak to other teams before the official league non-tampering window begins, they can only speculate as to what the money could actually look like elsewhere.
Outside of giving him a monetary amount he simply can’t refuse, the opportunity to keep a good thing going is all they really have to offer.
In a world where Evgeni Malkin is likely to hit the open market, it’s Gaudreau who will bring in the most money this summer. A sensational season that saw Gaudreau score 40 goals and crack 100 points (115) for the first time only added to the millions that will be thrown at him in the coming weeks. Both by the Flames and his soon-to-be suitors.
That list will be long. For now, it’s only the Flames. But that gives them little to no power to prevail.
They have an extra year of term to offer, which does bode well for them if Gaudreau and his wife decide Calgary is a place they want to call home for the next eight years. On the money side of things, Gaudreau is likely to fetch $70-$87.5 million with a max seven-year term on the open market – starting with an annual average value (AAV) of $10M and ending with Connor McDavid’s NHL leading $12.5 AAV.
What’s the bottom line for Flames?
For the Calgary Flames to walk away with a total that matches or beats what may come via free agency, they may have to go as high as $11M per season. And this is ignoring any of money minutiae, like tax benefits that may be better in other places.
It may be hard to imagine a team throwing McDavid money at Gaudreau, but that’s the leverage agent Lewis Gross will be using to get the most he can from a team that made it to the second round for just the second time since 2004 thanks to Gaudreau’s Game 7 series-winning overtime goal against the Dallas Stars.
Anything less than $10M AAV means Gaudreau gave a home-away-from-hometown discount to the Flames. But they have no in-house option to fill the void that would be left from a departure. And you can’t replace the 28-year-old winger with anything that even remotely resembles him via free agency.
So the puck – as it has been for so much of his impressive career with the Calgary Flames – is dangling on Gaudreau’s stick.
And money isn’t the only consideration Gaudreau is weighing.
Location is an obvious element on the pros and cons list. It’s just not certain what side Calgary lands in the Gaudreau household.
The common (lazy, boring, etc.) storyline is that Gaudreau is from the east and so that’s where he wants to play. He is from New Jersey, grew up a Philadelphia Flyers fan and played college hockey in Boston.
So guess where all the rumoured top landing spots are for Gaudreau if he leaves the Calgary Flames?
The Family X-Factor
The Gaudreaus are a tight-knit family. You can bet Johnny Hockey will be having important conversations with many of them to make the biggest decision of his hockey career. Another eight years nestled in the Rocky Mountains is another eight years of sporadic visitation during an eight-month season.
Even with Calgary Flames fans shovelling your driveway to convince you to stay, being closer to mom and dad surely carries a little weight. Especially when mom and dad are about to become grandma and grandpa.
The ultimate X-factor in all this might be the fact that John and his wife, Meredith, are expecting their first child. But that doesn’t necessarily cement the idea of leaving town to be closer to more in-house babysitters.
There are a lot of perks to dual citizenship.
And if Gaudreau sticks around for another eight years, he’ll likely have rewritten the Calgary Flames record books – making him an honourary Canadian at least.
Legacy is another thing teammates like Blake Coleman were using to lobby their even-strength dynamo to stick around with them. And Gaudreau said himself that is of some importance.
In the end, the right balance needs to be struck between money and the intangibles.
Only Gaudreau knows what those really are. And there’s no real deadline for him to decide. Aside from July 13, which is when the Calgary Flames’ eighth year option expires, along with his current contract.