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Gaudreau says not to expect new contract before World Cup

Even if Johnny Gaudreau isn’t locked up before the end of the tournament, the Calgary Flames have more than enough cap space to ink their star forward to a new deal before the season-opener.

There were rumblings before the off-season began that once restricted free agent Sean Monahan and Flames reached a new contract, young star Johnny Gaudreau’s brand new deal in Calgary would be soon to follow.

Well, Monahan signed more than two weeks ago and Gaudreau has yet to land on a contract for 2016-17 with the Flames. And Gaudreau, the Flames’ 23-year-old burgeoning superstar, told the National Post’s Michael Traikos that no one should be expecting him to sign on the dotted line ahead of the World Cup. In fact, Gaudreau said it’s likely to take until after the tournament concludes for him to sign.

"I don’t think I’m speaking to my agent for the next 15 to 20 days,” Gaudreau said, according to Traikos. “End of tournament, see where it goes.”

And if one would think that Gaudreau is concerned at all about going into the World Cup without any contract security, that’s definitely not the case. Gaudreau said he’s just going into it “as if I do have a contract. I have insurance, so it protects me,” according to Traikos.

Reports of contract talks and speculation about a contract extension for Gaudreau began in the back half of the past season, which makes the fact he’s still without a new deal somewhat strange, though not entirely uncommon. Contract negotiations, especially with RFAs who are bound to get big-money deals, can drag on.

Included in the speculation about Monahan and Gaudreau signing at the same or similar times was the belief that the Flames’ top-line duo could be looking for similar salaries. The issue there, though, is that Monahan’s seven-year deal pays him an annual average salary of $6.375 million. That’s a sizeable chunk of change, but Gaudreau’s new deal could justifiably be worth in the $7.5 million range per season. 

Many have used Vladimir Tarasenko’s eight-year, $60-million contract with the St. Louis Blues as a comparable for Gaudreau. It’s a fitting comparison, too, as the two players have posted similar numbers over the past two seasons. But the difference between Monahan’s average salary and Tarasenko’s $7.5 million per season is upwards of $1 million. It’s not hard to understand why that could become a stumbling block.

Luckily for Calgary, they’re not in a salary cap position that would make Gaudreau signing a $7 million-plus deal impossible. The Flames have more than $8.5 million in cap space for this coming season and several high-priced players, such as defensemen Dennis Wideman, Ladislav Smid and Deryk Engelland, will all be coming off the books next summer.

As it stands, Gaudreau signing a contact with a cap hit of $7 million would leave the Flames with $1.59 million in wiggle room this season and nearly $23 million to work with next off-season. Contracts for Sam Bennett, defenseman Jyrki Jokkipakka and goaltender Brian Elliott will be the biggest concerns, but the Flames should have more than enough to lock up all three.

Gaudreau may not be locked up quite yet, but the end of the World Cup could bring a new deal to his attention. And with the campaign fast-approaching, the Flames and Gaudreau will continue to work towards finding common ground and getting him in the lineup for the season-opener.

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