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FlamesNation Mailbag: Several good questions about Johnny Gaudreau

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Photo credit:Mike Gould
Ryan Pike
5 months ago
Friends, we’re just over two weeks out from the 2022 NHL Draft and just over three weeks out from the opening of free agency. With the clock ticking, we’ve received a lot of good questions in our mailbag curious about Johnny Gaudreau.
Friends, here we will try our best to answer your questions about Gaudreau. Let’s dive in!
Honestly, I’d wager that Matthew Tkachuk is slightly more likely to be in a Flames lineup in five years. The reason for that is simple: the Flames basically get two cracks at signing Tkachuk and they have one crack left at signing Johnny Gaudreau.
If the Flames don’t re-up Gaudreau by midnight ET on July 12, he becomes a free agent. For Tkachuk, the Flames will qualify him this year on July 11, and then either they’ll negotiate a long-term deal, or he’ll file for arbitration and a one-year deal will be imposed, or he’ll simply accept his one-year qualifying offer. And then if he only gets a one-year deal, they’ll have another year to negotiate another deal.
There’s a bunch of decision points that could result in Tkachuk locking into Calgary long-term. For Gaudreau, there’s just one.
If we entertain the notion that Gaudreau might want to move east to play closer to his family and friends, let’s stick to eastern time zone teams just to keep things simple, and let’s assume Gaudreau would want to play for a good team (e.g., a current playoff team) and make somewhere around $11 million per season. Who fits that bill? The Rangers, the Hurricanes and the Penguins.
The Devils have oodles of cap space, but were not good last season. The Flyers play across the river from Gaudreau’s childhood hometown, but they don’t have enough cap space and would need to shuffle out some contracts to make room for Gaudreau. (The Flyers have a GM in Chuck Fletcher that’s committed to turning things around quickly, and a new coach in John Tortorella with a Cup ring, but it’s a tall order.)
Simply put, friends: the teams out east that have cap space haven’t been good, and the teams that are good don’t really have the cap space. So if he wants to go east – and we’re not entirely sure he does – he’d need to bank on a bad team getting good quickly, or he’d need a good team to jettison a big contract (and a good player) in order to afford him.
If Gaudreau doesn’t re-up, the plan is probably to lock down Tkachuk and Mangiapane to long-term deals and then try to maximize the next couple of seasons worth of the team’s core before their deals expire and become much more challenging. Sure, Milan Lucic, Sean Monahan and Dan Vladar are on deals that expire after the 2022-23 season – Vladar will become a restricted free agent. But after 2023-24, expiring deals include Mikael Backlund, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Dillon Dube, Noah Hanifin and Chris Tanev.
So… it would make sense to get the absolute most value the Flames can out of the team they have, because the cap situation will be a lot different in the summer of 2024.
Let’s get one thing out of the way: the Flames won’t find another 115-point player. But they can find good players on the free agent market.
If Gaudreau walks, there are a bunch of wingers who are about to become unrestricted free agents who could fit the bill and are probably about to become challenging for their existing teams to afford. Among them: Nashville’s Filip Forsberg, Colorado’s Andrei Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky or Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat. All of these players will likely have cap hits lower than whatever the Flames would’ve been giving Gaudreau, and they all are good offensive players.
The Flames could also attempt to replace Gaudreau in the aggregate with a couple smaller signings, with some more secondary targets like Florida’s Mason Marchment, Pittsburgh’s Rickard Rakell or Vegas’ Reilly Smith, among others.
But there are a lot of moving parts, and what the Flames could afford (and for how long) would depend on what happens with Gaudreau. And Tkachuk. And Andrew Mangiapane.

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