Johnny Gaudreau remains without a contract, which makes nobody particularly happy. The Flames probably aren’t happy about it, because they’d probably like to get their star signed; and Gaudreau probably isn’t happy about it, because he’d probably like to be at training camp getting ready for the season.
I don’t know what Gaudreau’s agent’s thoughts are on the matter, but he’d probably prefer to have his client signed before the season starts, too.
The clock is ticking, and as we approach the season opener – under two weeks away, now – people are getting more and more antsy. But the fact of the matter is, there aren’t any bad guys here. And even if the season starts, and Gaudreau still doesn’t have a contract, there still won’t be any bad guys.
The Flames are not at fault
Personally, I’m of the belief that the Gaudreau camp’s ask of $8 million is entirely reasonable. I’m of the belief that if Gaudreau was signed, right now, for eight years at $8 million, the Flames would be thanking themselves later.
Remember how the Canadiens got P.K. Subban on a bridge deal, then ended up having to carry a $9 million cap hit? It doesn’t particularly matter to them now, but that still could have been avoided. The same principle applies here: Gaudreau could be had throughout the rest of his 20s – his prime years – at an $8 million cap hit. If he keeps up being a top-10 NHL scorer – honestly, the way he’s been going his entire hockey-playing career, he’s probably going to contend for an Art Ross or two – then he’s going to be worth more than that.
There are three players entering this upcoming season with $10+ million contracts. Gaudreau is probably going to have the carrying power to join them in the not-too-distant future. Imagine not having to worry about that because you’ve got him at $8 million instead.
That said, that’s just my opinion. I don’t know what the Flames are thinking, both in terms of how they’re going to manage their cap this season (and they’ve definitely placed themselves in a precarious spot), and how they’re going to manage it for the long term. They obviously want a lower cap hit, though, and that’s fine; it only becomes not fine once the season has started. We still have a little under two weeks for that.
Gaudreau is not at fault
The amount of vitriol I’ve started to see thrown towards a 23-year-old is ridiculous. Cries of “hockey is a team game,” shrugging of shoulders and saying, “fine, we’ll just carry on without him,” and blaming him for being “greedy” have all started to get out of hand.
Most of us are only ever going to know Gaudreau as an entertainment product. Fact is, though, he’s a person with a very specific talent that the market has determined is worth a certain amount. And as the 2015-16 season carried on, it became more and more apparent his particular skill set would be worth more than that of anybody else on the Flames.
So why is it greedy to try to capitalize on that?
Gaudreau is going to be a rich man. There’s no plight here, there’s no concern over how he’s going to live. But keep in mind that professional athletes have a very limited window in which to earn their livings, and it’s in his best interest to capitalize on that as soon as he can – which is now.
I wonder if I have a different perspective on this because I’m pretty close to Gaudreau in age. I’m not really a believer in him having to work away at a lesser salary in order to earn a bigger one later, when he’s older, when it’s “acceptable” to pay a player that much. Not when he’s made it clear that, after two seasons in the NHL, he’s already one of its premier players.
And he is. There is one player on this team that is going to have the most financial impact, and it’s Gaudreau. T.J. Brodie and Mikael Backlund are my personal favourites, but I know that they aren’t the big ticket sellers. I like Sean Monahan and Mark Giordano a whole lot, and they’ll put some butts in seats for sure, but they aren’t the guy.
Gaudreau is. Gaudreau (and his camp) know it. To get angry that somebody recognizes that and wants to be fairly compensated for it – sure, all professional athletes may be overpaid, but they exist within their own marketplace so this is all speaking very relative – is absurd.
A trade is not an option here. Trades involving star players almost never work out for the team trading the star. The Flames need Gaudreau, full stop.
And it would be nice to have him retained at a cheap amount. But that’s not going to happen, and everyone involved with this knows it.
No matter what, Gaudreau is going to get a pretty big contract. His ask, for what he projects to be, isn’t unreasonable. This past season was the first in which Vladimir Tarasenko carried a $7.5 million cap hit. He scored 74 points. He had 73 points the year before; before that, his career high was 43. Gaudreau’s career low is 64. Do you think the St. Louis Blues are regretting carrying him at $7.5 million? He was 23 years old when his contract started, was he being greedy?
Gaudreau’s ask isn’t unreasonable here. If the Flames are aiming to lock him up long term – and they should be – then he’s probably going to be getting at least Tarasenko money. That isn’t greed. That’s trying to get fair compensation. And since when was that a bad thing?