Johnny Gaudreau: ‘I could play the rest of my career’ in Calgary

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the Flames right now. Injuries and suspensions have left the backend a mess. The trade deadline is coming up, but we don’t know who – if anybody – will be traded. (To say nothing of the upcoming UFAs getting hurt in the games leading up to the Feb. 29 deadline.) The cap is going to go up a little, or stay where it is, or go down, and the Flames have a lot of bad contracts they have to deal with all the while.

One thing that’s not confusing? Johnny Gaudreau. He’s been one of the Flames’ best players all season long. In just his second NHL season, he’s the team’s top scorer, and it may be a title he refuses to relinquish – he was already second in scoring in just his rookie year.

He’s going to get a new contract, and it’s going to be a big one. We know this. And now, we know Gaudreau is open to the possibility of playing for just one team his career. His agent is town – so now, we may be just one step closer to that.

A caveat or two

I always take it with a grain of salt when a player waxes his love for the city he plays in and its fans. What else is he going to say? He doesn’t just work there; he lives there, too, and he has public appearances to keep up. Not to mention that this is hockey: a sport and culture that gets twitchy when you’re even remotely candid.

Calgary just happens to be the NHL team that got first dibs on Gaudreau. Had he been drafted by any other team, he’d probably be saying the exact same things. They’re interchangeable.

That said, there’s still something nice to be said for his words, predictable as they may be. It was Calgary that drafted him. Calgary took the chance on him that nobody else did. Gaudreau was afraid he wouldn’t even get drafted to begin with; Calgary dissuaded those fears. Nobody else. Just Calgary. 

So that plays a part in making his words a little more genuine than they may have been otherwise. That, and the presence of Gaudreaus felt over the past couple of seasons. They all have Flames gear; handfuls of them have shown up to games. The Gaudreaus, as a collective family unit, have been embraced by Calgary, and they seem to be returning the favour.

There’s really no reason to doubt the sincerity of his words. 

Just one other hitch: I’m sure Jarome Iginla was intending to play out his entire career as a Flame, too. But we never know what the future brings. We never know what actions a team may have to take as the years progress. Things can chance in an instant, and Gaudreau could end up donning another team’s colours at some point.

The nice thing with him, though, is unlike with Iginla, he definitely has at least one quality centre to play with. Hopefully the Flames will manage to build a championship team with this particular winger, unlike what happened with their most recent franchise player.

I say “franchise player” because just as nobody will ever wear #12 again, if things keep going as they are, it’s entirely possible nobody else ever dons #13, either.

Let’s talk contract

“My agent just got in town yesterday,” Gaudreau told TSN. “We didn’t really talk too much about it, but it’s something that we gotta keep our eye open for and hopefully it happens in the near future.”

He is, of course, talking about his upcoming contract. Gaudreau will be a restricted free agent following this season, and sitting at 120 points over 136 games – a .88 point per game pace – he’s going to cash in. He’s one of the best scorers in the entire world right now, tied with Sidney Crosby for seventh overall in NHL standings. 

There’s a reason Vladimir Tarasenko’s name has come up as a comparable. Through his entry level contract with the St. Louis Blues, Tarasenko scored 135 points over 179 games: a .75 point per game pace. Right out of the gate, Tarasenko was off to the races, and 73 points through 77 games in his contract year helped cement the eight-year, $60 million deal he got.

Eight years is the maximum term Gaudreau can be re-signed for under the CBA, and it should probably happen. Giving him a bridge deal makes no sense: he’s probably just going to get better. And with the way salaries are going – Anze Kopitar is about to start carrying a $10 million cap hit – by the time any hypothetical bridge deal runs out, it would be easy to see Gaudreau in the double digits.

If the maximum he hits is Taraensko’s $7.5 million cap hit, though – and for eight seasons following this one? He’d be 30 by the time it runs out – then that could end up being a massive win.

Gaudreau is young, he’s elite, and he still has a lot of his best years ahead of him. This is where dishing out on both term and salary makes sense.

Hopefully, with Gaudreau’s agent now in town, talks start gaining traction. Because it’s really hard to map out the Flames’ future on the cap without knowing just how much of that cap Gaudreau is going to take up – and it’s going to be a fair amount of it, as it rightfully should be.

What of Sean Monahan?

Going into this season, I think – both from watching them and the sake of simplicity – it was easy to assume Sean Monahan would be getting the same deal as Gaudreau. They’ve been likened to Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who have identical contracts; they scored at similar rates in 2014-15. It made sense.

But as this season has gone on, Monahan has, comparatively, fallen by the wayside. It’s not that he’s a bad player, it’s that he’s not on Gaudreau’s level. He’s second in team scoring, and he’s still five goals and 16 points back of his frequent linemate. 

They play in similar circumstances, but this season, Gaudreau has a 49.4% 5v5 CF; Monahan sits at 48.11%. Gaudreau’s 5v5 CF% rel is +2.32; Monahan’s is +0.41. This season, when playing together, they sit at a 49.9% CF; away from Monahan, Gaudreau is a 47.6% CF player, while Monahan is a 38.4% guy. 

Gaudreau is, quite simply, better. He scores more. He has the puck more. He doesn’t necessarily need Monahan centring him – and with Sam Bennett now getting a shot down the middle, not to mention the possibility the Flames pick up another high quality centre this upcoming draft, it’s possible Monahan shouldn’t be his linemate of the future at all.

We’re buzzing about Gaudreau’s agent being in town, but there hasn’t been a peep about Monahan’s guy.

That’s not to say Monahan’s impending deal isn’t important. Until we know both his and Gaudreau’s upcoming cap hits, the Flames’ salary structure going forward is incredibly murky. But Monahan is no longer a first priority kind of guy – and identical deals are probably no longer in the cards, nor should they be.

  • Baalzamon

    To be fair, Gaudreau away from Monahan is usually playing with either Backlund or Bennett. Monahan away from Gaudreau is usually with Colborne.

    So… yeah.

  • fretsey

    I don’t mean to be a bummer..but I think this one is going to take awhile.He’s worth his weight in gold.He puts people in the seats (and brings them out of said seats ;)). A totally unique and amazing player.

    Tarasenko’s eight-year,$60-million is the comparable apparently.Jonny’s camp is most likely to start at 8years,$72-million if only as a number to negotiate down to Tarasenko’s ballpark,yes?

    edit:lol..”worth his weight in Gold” is a useless saying about hockey players,I’ve just recently discovered.

  • Bob Cobb

    He is saying whatever it takes to get the max contract, of course he would play the rest of his career in Calgary if they give him the biggest contract in team history as was reported earlier this week, I predict he will never live up to the contract.

  • RKD

    I genuinely believe Johnny hockey, I think he loves the organization, the city and what they are building here in Calgary. Unlike some bums *cough* *cough* Tim Erixon who are ungrateful pukes, Johnny hockey will sign here long term. If the Flames have a lot of success and his play doesn’t diminish, I could see him as a lifer.

  • supra steve

    Calgary is clean and prosperous and safe. We’re close to Banff/Lake Louise and a lot of natural beauty. It’s a world class city, and we shouldn’t need to be looking for validation from a vastly talented 22 year old hockey player. If he genuinely loves Calgary (and why wouldn’t he, he must get treated like a king wherever he goes), then a deal will be worked out. If he doesn’t…then a different kind of deal will be worked out.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      It’s also a fishbowl for pro hockey players. Iggy loved that so that was no problem for him. Not sure about Johnny. He lived in a fishbowl during his amazing college career, and he has always been the centre of attention since coming to the Flames. Perhaps he is disillusioned with that and would prefer to play in a city where hockey is not king. It’s not even a knave. He might like a place where when he walks down Main Street, few if any know who he is.

      • Avalain

        You may be right about Johnny, but from the little that we know about him, he seems to love the attention. He tends to ramp up his game with the crowd cheering him on.

  • beloch

    To be fair to Monahan, he is a year plus change younger than Gaudreau. He’s still a bit behind last year’s version of Gaudreau, but he’s also playing a position that players often take longer to master.

    The Flames are in a situation where they must sign both of these players, but they’re also in dire need of cap space. To what extent will this factor into negotiations? Treliving seems to be a canny negotiator who has signed several players to smaller cap hits than they might have received elsewhere. The Brodie contract was a steal, and both the Hamilton and Giordano contracts were restrained when compared to the numbers other people were throwing around. Each of these contracts would still have been viewed as fair if they came in at a ~$1M higher each, but that little bit extra adds up fast when your team is trying to become a contender. This is something that the Flames’ previous GM’s didn’t seem to appreciate at times.

    Can Treliving do it again?

  • Bob Cobb

    Can’t handle the truth eh? Every single athlete will say “I like the city, I like the team, I believe in what management is doing, they have a lot of pieces in place…..blah, blah, blah” because its all about money and they aren’t going to crap on the hand that feeds them. Flames fans, like Oiler fans, when McDavid comes up for renegotiations, are foolish if they believe that money has nothing to do with it.

  • Greg

    I hope they don’t go for matching contracts on this round. Given Monahan could very likely be surpassed by Bennett, it’ll probably cause a lot of trouble down the road.

    Id like to see monahan get a 1-2 bridge deal. Not the “screw him over cause he has no leverage” kind of bridge, but a very fair 2nd contract. With the step back this season in both scoring and possession stats, he’s not going to be in the same $7-8M range as Johnny anymore. So if he’s going to be signing in the $5-6M range, he’s better off taking a 1-2 year deal and renegotiating when (if?) he’s put himself back in that class.

    unless of course he doesn’t think he will keep pace with Johnny and Bennett up front and should get as much as he can now, in which case, the flames should be very cautious giving him anything more that $5M per if the term is 4+ years. There’s a non-trivial chance he ends up being just a decent 2nd line Center, and you can’t afford to pay him like a top notch 1st line center if he’s not actually that.

    • Jumping Jack Flash

      The ELC for the up and coming elite players is a bit of a sham… Which is likely why teams burn off a year at the start of a contract as a show of good will because the team’s know they are taking advantage of these young players.

      Looking at Alberta teams in isolation, you can see the two franchise players for their respective teams, Johnny and Connor are making bottom 5 salary without bonuses. I get that these are show me contracts but if you look at some of the players sitting in the respective press boxes making double the salary… It would be tough to take.

      This structure ultimately leads to a shift in philosophy for players like Monny who are very good players in their own right to push for more money at the expense of term to make up for being underpaid.

  • BlueMoonNigel

    I recall a couple of Van Halen concerts in the mid 1980s. At the Calgary concert, Roth growled to the audience, “This place makes Edmonton look like Poland!” Crowd roared in approval. Next night in Edmonton, Roth growled at the audience, “This place makes Calgary look like Poland!” Crowd roared in approval.

    As Mama always said, if you’re a guest in someone’s homes, only say nice things.

  • Jumping Jack Flash

    Johnny deserves to be paid like an elite player…. But he also has to be careful not to be greedy and having to live up to the lofty expectations. If he prices himself too high it will negatively impact the the teams ability to sign other high potential players. Kane and Toews have earned their matching monster contracts but at the expense of a revolving door of support players.

    IMO I only see one deficiency in Johnny’s game and it is not his size. The way he uses his edges and can spin off defenders, this is barely a factor. Despite the fact that Johny has 22 goals most goals are scored in a 15 foot radius. He has a hard and accurate shot when he has time, but under pressure and when being leaned on he lacks power behind his shot.

    He has tried both the wrap around and low percentage short side shots down the wing with limited success. You rarely see a Kane esque backhand which he showed in college. Once he improves his shot , he will be able to fire it in after his patented button hook. All this makes me think Johnny’s ceiling is immense.
    To be a PPG player without a fully developed toolbox but with all the tools…is scary for the opposition.