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Johnny Gaudreau’s free agency is hot offseason issue for Calgary Flames

By on May 28, 2022 0

CALGARY — The Calgary Flames’ offseason is starting earlier than they’d hoped, and the burning question is whether the team can keep their best player.

Left winger Johnny Gaudreau will become an unrestricted free agent on July 13. There will be suitors for the 28-year-old who just completed a career year of 40 goals and 75 assists while playing all 82 regular season games.

“Sit down with my agent this week and figure out what’s best for me and my family,” Gaudreau said Saturday, two days after Calgary’s season ended.

“Calgary has a special place in my heart. I’ve been part of this organization for 11 years now. I love everything about this city.

“My next door neighbors pretty sure they shovel my snow all year round just to pick me up.”

The Edmonton Oilers ousted the Flames in the second round of the NHL playoffs, winning their best of seven Western Conference semifinals four games to one.

On the open market, Gaudreau is expected to get a raise on the six-year, US$40.5 million contract he signed with Calgary in 2016.

The Salem, NJ forward didn’t look like a man with his foot out on Saturday, but NHL business can be cold in the summer.

Gaudreau said he didn’t think after Thursday’s 5-4 overtime loss to Edmonton it would be his last time in a Flames uniform.

“I didn’t sit in the locker room, keep my jersey on or look in the stands,” Gaudreau said. “It’s something that I haven’t really thought about. I’ve never really had that moment where it was like, ‘this is it for me.’

“I have a big decision and we will see what happens in the next few weeks.”

Gaudreau tallied three goals and 11 assists in 12 playoff games, including the overtime winner in Calgary’s Game 7 win over the Dallas Stars to advance beyond the first round for the first time in seven years.

“I think it’s a Calgary Flame,” general manager Brad Treliving said Saturday. “We’ve wanted to make him a Calgary flame for a long time. We’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”

But Gaudreau isn’t the only player Treliving is rocking the bank this summer.

Among 11 total free agents on Calgary’s roster, 24 years ago Matthew Tkachuk, which points to restricted free will. An offer for Gaudreau could impact an offer for Tkachuk and vice versa.

“Every contract is linked,” Treliving said. “You, at the end of the day, live in a world of caps where you have 23 mouths to feed. You treat everyone fairly, but not everyone is treated the same or they’d all be doing the same thing. .”

Tkachuk led the Flames in goals with 42 and, like Gaudreau, produced more than 100 points in a season for the first time in his career.

He just completed a three-year, $21 million contract. Calgary’s exit from the playoffs was too fresh on Saturday for Tkachuk to consider the next contract negotiations.

“I haven’t really had time to think about it. I thought we would play tonight,” Tkachuk said.

If Stanley Cup-winning potential is a factor in either man’s decision, this edition of the Flames have progressed through the playoffs after several years of first-round exits or missing out on the playoffs.

Calgary reached the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Cup Final in 2004.

“The goal was to be a playoff team. We achieved that goal, so it wasn’t a complete failure,” Tkachuk said. “We got a little taste of what it takes to win a round.

“We were successful in one round and not the next, so we have to take the next step and give ourselves a shot at the playoffs again next year. It starts with a great summer and a great regular season. .”

The Flames (50-21-11) topped the Pacific Division and earned a first-round win over the Stars in a rare open-ice landslide series.

Starting with a 9-6 win over Edmonton in Game 1, Calgary fell for trade opportunities with the Oilers, whose captain Connor McDavid took his game to another level completed by the winger Leon Draisaitlcontributions.

“There’s a feeling of emptiness today because I think there was more there. I watch this series and the team that played the best won the series,” Treliving said.

“What’s empty for me is that I don’t think we’ve put our game on the ice. We’ve established an identity and a style of play that – for a number of reasons and some that we’ll have to figure out – we never reached it in the second round.

“We didn’t have the game that had made us successful all year.”

Calgary’s top defenseman, Chris Tanev, dislocated his right shoulder in Game 6 of the Dallas series. He will undergo surgery next week and his recovery time is expected to be four to six months.

Tanev returned to the lineup for Game 4 of the conference semifinals, but the 32-year-old was clearly struggling with his injury.

Defender Nikita Zadorov played with cracked ribs after slipping into the Stars’ net during this series, forward Milan Lucic suffered a sprained AC joint where the shoulder meets the collarbone, and Tkachuk’s hand was “bumped,” Treliving said Saturday.

Having reached a milestone in the playoffs, Calgary’s challenge is not to regress in 2022-23, no matter who wears the flamboyant “C” again.

“It’s going to be a big offseason for this group,” the Flames forward said. Blake Coleman said. “Fingers crossed that Johnny is in red next year.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on May 28, 2022.