It’s the final day of September and Johnny Gaudreau still doesn’t have a contract. I don’t think anyone thought this negotiation would drag on as long as it has and it’s turned into the biggest story of training camp. It’s time to get this deal done in some form or another; the longer this lasts, the more negative it gets for both sides. Two things worry me most if this drags on much longer.
It doesn’t sound like this negotiation has gotten contentious, but that doesn’t really matter at this point. Whether things are perfectly amicable or not, there’s nothing really positive that can come from waiting much longer. And it doesn’t really matter who you believe should take the brunt of the blame here; both sides are at risk of being affected in a negative fashion.
On the ice
I don’t think a prolonged contract holdout will have any long term implications for Gaudreau because he’s too good a player. In the short term, however, I certainly worry how this whole situation could mess with the start of his season, specifically if this stretches out another week or more.
The Flames have a new coach and thus new systems and details. Gaudreau has already missed a week of training camp which means a week of getting up to speed on whatever the new nuances are under Glen Gulutzan. That’s not an impossible hurdle to overcome but it’s also not an ideal circumstance to have.
The fact Gaudreau played at the World Cup of Hockey certainly helps mitigate any rust he might have, but that has a limit too. Gaudreau’s last game with Team North America was more than a week ago, so at least one preseason game with the Flames would have been ideal. Calgary’s preseason schedule is done in less than a week so it becomes less likely he’ll get into one every passing day.
All of this speaks to my worry he won’t start the season at quite the level he or the team would like. This is an important season for the Flames as they continue in their rebuild, especially after the frustration of last season. Calgary needs to take a step forward this season and if Gaudreau is still adjusting early in the season their chances of doing that take a hit.
There’s no guarantee any of this would come to pass, even if Gaudreau ends up missing regular season games. Gaudreau is a good enough player he might be able to jump right back in regardless of a training camp or not. The point is, though, the chance of messing with the start of his season exists and avoiding the situation altogether is still the way to go.
Off the ice
Will a continued contract stalemate put a strain on Gaudreau’s relationship with the team going forward? None of us know the answer to that question, but it’s a fair one to ask. If Gaudreau signs a long-term deal, well, those worries will probably be extinguished. A short-term pact would make me a little more nervous, though.
For whatever reason, I can’t get Ryan O’Reilly’s three-year saga in Colorado out of my head. If you remember, O’Reilly was unsigned well into the shortened 2013 season before Calgary’s offer sheet forced the Avalanche to match and sign him to a two-year deal. Another one-year contract followed that and then he was traded to Buffalo as an RFA last summer. The Flames need to avoid a situation like that at all costs.
I don’t know if Calgary’s reported insistence of keeping Gaudreau’s cap number under Mark Giordano’s $6.75 million would rub the former the wrong way. Maybe Gaudreau is insulted the team doesn’t believe he’s worth what the market suggests. Then again, maybe not; there’s just as good a chance Gaudreau is looking at this as all business and nothing else. But if you’re the Flames, why open yourself up to that risk if you don’t have to?
Pike wrote a good story earlier this week on Calgary’s cap situation as it relates to Gaudreau, while I delved into what’s taking this thing so long late last month. Someone has to budge because this deal needs to get done. Playing chicken is great, as is sticking to your principles, but at some point someone is going to have to blink.
On the team side, I believe an internal cap related to Giordano’s contract is unrealistic. The market suggests Gaudreau is worth in excess of $7 million on a long term deal regardless of Calgary’s adherence to principle. I’d love to buy a $1 million house for $475,000, but if the market says otherwise, that’s not going to happen.
As I laid out in the article I linked to above, a short-term deal is not ideal for the Flames; unfortunately, that’s the only way I see them getting Gaudreau’s cap hit under their internal ceiling. Right now, though, the market suggests a long term deal for Gaudreau should pay him between $7 and $7.5 million per season which is better than $9.5 million three years down the road.
As for the Gaudreau camp, they need to dial back their demands, too. As much as I love the player, to be asking more than $8 million with just two seasons under his belt doesn’t pass the smell test, either. The guy is a hell of a player, but money like that probably isn’t warranted.
I don’t know who’s going to blink first because both teams seem like they’re pretty set in to their foxholes. Whoever moves off their stance first, though, shouldn’t be viewed as the “loser” in this battle. Ending this standoff now is best for all parties involved and I can assure you Flames fans don’t care who makes the first move, as long as #13 gets signed in short order.