It’s been over six weeks since Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan officially became restricted free agents – and a year and six weeks since they were eligible to sign new deals – and the hockey world remains patently aware of the fact that only Monahan has signed a new contract with the Calgary Flames.
While various media outlets have been doing their best impression of Kevin Bacon in Animal House – “Remain calm! All is well!” – we here at FlamesNation have been doing our level best to avoid blowing the lack of contract out of proportion.
But Gaudreau is still without a new contract and the 2016-17 National Hockey League season is quietly creeping towards us. When should we start to get concerned about the lack of a deal for Gaudreau?
WORLD CUP CAMPS OPEN
The pre-tournament exhibition games for World Cup of Hockey clubs begin Sept. 8 and all eight teams are expected to begin camp on either Sept. 4 or 5.
Can confirm report by Elliotte Friedman that @johngaudreau03 will play in World Cup even without contract. Won’t negotiate during tourney.
— Eric Francis (@EricFrancis) August 18, 2016
We had a previous report from TSN’s Gary Lawless that the NHL and NHLPA would insure players without contracts (such as the Gaudreaus of the world), so that’s not a worry. Gaudreau’s camp will likely allow the tournament to be a breather from negotiations. I wouldn’t worry too much if Gaudreau isn’t signed yet.
NHL CAMPS OPEN
The Flames are likely opening their rookie camp around Sept. 14 (prior to the Young Stars tournament in Penticton) and their main camp about a week later. Gaudreau (and Monahan) won’t be there, as he’ll be in Toronto for the World Cup. But the entire Flames hockey operations family will be in one place, which could provide a nice opportunity to lock everyone in a room together to get a deal done.
TRANSITION TO NHL CAMPS
The earliest Team North America could be knocked out of the World Cup is at the end of round robin, which would be Sept. 22. If they make it to the semi-finals and lose, they’re done on Sept. 25. If they go to the finals, they’re done on Oct. 1. These dates are important because unlike the World Cup, players would have to insure themselves to attend an NHL camp without a valid contract. Jarome Iginla did so in 1999 because he didn’t want to miss camp – he ended up missing the first three games of the 1999-2000 season before a deal was reached.
Or if they don’t want to take the expense on, they can always sit out and wait for a new contract.
If Gaudreau hasn’t signed by the time the World Cup ends, there’s a chance he could sit out the rest of camp until a deal is done, and that could potentially jeopardize his October performance. Particularly with a brand new coach, you want him to learn systems and be able to hit the ground running on Oct. 12 when the season begins.
So if he’s not signed by the end of the World Cup, maybe start to panic a bit.
If Gaudreau has signed by Dec. 1, then he’s not eligible to play in the NHL for the rest of the season. If he’s already sat out the first two months of the season, then the Flames are probably in the NHL’s basement and already starting to build inventory for all the Nolan Patrick jerseys they’re planning to sell the season after.
So if that happens, panic. Panic like crazy.
THE GUT FEELING
If you ask me, I expect the deal to get done immediately after the World Cup ends for Team North America. The Flames will already have main camp underway, Gaudreau will have spent some time in the Toronto media fishbowl, and it’ll probably get to the point where everybody – even his camp – are tired of hearing about the lack of a deal.
And the prospect of arguably the best prospect the Flames have seen in years sitting out of training camp due to a contract dispute seems downright crazy and would make both sides look bad. If it seems like it may happen, I’d expect both sides to compromise a bit and get something done quickly.