Calgary locking up young star Johnny Gaudreau for less than $8-million per season would have been classified as a great deal for the Flames, but GM Brad Treliving has pulled a rabbit out of his hat, re-signing the 23-year-old restricted free agent to a six-year deal that carries a cap hit south of $7 million.
The Flames broke the news of Gaudreau’s signing to a six-year deal early Monday evening, and TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported that the annual average value of the contract is $6.75-million, including a $3-million signing bonus. As news of the contract broke, Gaudreau took to Twitter to explain the signing and his desire to simply play when the season began.
“As I have always said, I just want to play hockey,” Gaudreau wrote. “I want to be there for my teammates and for the fans of Calgary. I want to thank my family and my agent for all their support during this process. I couldn’t have done it without them.”
Before the off-season began, it was reported the Flames and Gaudreau had begun contract talks, and the expectation at that point was that Gaudreau could be in line for one of the richest contracts in the franchise’s history. Some reports had Gaudreau asking for as much as $8 million-plus per season, and it wouldn’t have been too far-fetched to see him sign a deal that pays him in that range.
With that in mind, getting Gaudreau under contract at $6.75 million — and for six years at that term, no less — is nothing short of astounding for the Flames. Gaudreau has been one of the league’s premier scorers over the past two seasons, and the eight-year, $60-million extension signed by St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko seemed to the perfect comparable.
Over the past two seasons, Tarasenko has netted 77 goals and 147 points in 157 games with St. Louis, while Gaudreau has managed 54 goals and 142 points in 159 outings for the Flames. Tarasenko may have the raw scoring power, but Gaudreau has the playmaking ability and is already the definite face of the Flames’ attack. Even still, Calgary somehow managed to keep Gaudreau not only under the $7.5-million AAV, but well under $7 million.
The only inkling there may have been that Gaudreau could be signing for under $7 million per season is that teammate, linemate and friend Sean Monahan, also an RFA this off-season, signed on to remain in Calgary on a seven-year, $44.625-million deal. Some believed Gaudreau and Monahan would have similar contract values, and that Monahan’s deal carried an AAV of $6.375-million opened the doors for Gaudreau to sign a cheaper deal than many would have expected.
There’s also the matter of Gaudreau’s bargaining chips in the contract talks. Unlike most high-profile RFAs, Gaudreau was in the difficult situation of having to negotiate without the option of signing an offer sheet from a rival club or taking the Flames to arbitration. The unique situation no doubt helped the Flames, too, because as the summer wore on without Gaudreau being signed, it wouldn’t have been shocking to have seen him receive an offer sheet had the option been available.
None of that matters now, though, as the Flames did what few would have thought possible and signed the burgeoning star to a deal that gives Calgary more than enough cap flexibility moving forward. And more importantly for the Flames and their fans, Gaudreau will be doing what he loves — playing hockey — come opening night.
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