After 11 years and over 600 National Hockey League appearances, Johnny Gaudreau is at a career and life crossroads. By mid-July either Gaudreau will be locked into a lengthy contract with the Calgary Flames – the only NHL club he’s ever been part of – or he’ll be gone.
On Saturday, Gaudreau discussed his impending contract negotiation – and decision whether to stay or go – with the media.
Prior the season, Gaudreau’s representative Lewis Gross and Flames general manager Brad Treliving agreed to keep things quiet and let Gaudreau focus on the season. Now that the season is over, Gaudreau plans on figuring out his next steps quite soon.
“Sit down with my agent this week sometime, figure out what’s best for me and my family,” said Gaudreau. “Obviously Calgary has a special place in my heart. Been part of this organization for 11 years now. Ever since day one when i got here, the fans, the organization, my teammates, even you guys… but everything about this city i love. My wife loves it here. You guys can tell on Twitter: my uncle, my dad, my mom, my sisters, brother, everyone loves Calgary. It’s a special place in our heart. We love it here, so we’ll see what happens.”
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In his chat with the media, Gaudreau repeatedly emphasized how happy he was with the Flames and what the group had accomplished, phrasing this season as “a building block” for the group.
Gaudreau was asked who had been lobbying him to return the most. He had a pretty funny answer, after briefly pausing to consider the question.
“Probably Tree,” Gaudreau deadpanned. “It’s everywhere. It’s such a great city to play in. I mean, my next door neighbours, pretty sure they were shovelling my snow all year just to get me back.”
Do players ever lobby their teammates to get them to re-sign?
“If it’s Johnny Gaudreau, you do,” said Blake Coleman. “He’s ultimately got to make the best choice for himself. But as a hockey player and a person, we all want him back.”
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In terms of how those conversations go, Coleman, a recent unrestricted free agent with some unique perspective on the process, explained what his approach included.
“Trying to have him understand what a legacy he could leave in Calgary if he stays,” said Coleman. “He could probably already put his jersey up in the rafters. Eight more years of Johnny in Calgary, he’d be cemented forever. And I think that’s something that’s important to him.”
Gaudreau is currently 12th in Flames history in games played (602), ninth in goals (201) and fifth in assists (399) and points (609). Only Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Jarome Iginla, Al MacInnis and Joe Nieuwendyk and all-time franchise great Theo Fleury have more points as Flames than Gaudreau.
“I think he’s got a chance to be one of the greatest ever to play in the history of the franchise, and there’s been some great ones,” said Treliving.
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When chatting with the media about the importance of Gaudreau’s deal, Treliving didn’t beat around the bush.
“I think he’s a Calgary Flame, and we want to make him a Calgary Flame for a long time. And we’re going to do everything we possibly can to make that happen.”
Asked about his legacy in Calgary, Gaudreau avoided talk of individual glory and instead reiterated about his gratitude.
“For me personally, just want people to know how grateful i am for them welcoming me here,” said Gaudreau. “Hopefully it’s a few more years here they can get stuck with me.”
Gaudreau’s current contract expires at midnight Eastern Time on the evening of July 12, at which point, if unsigned, he will become an unrestricted free agent.
Needless to say, Gaudreau’s decision is the first (of many) dominoes set to topple in what should be a very eventful off-season for the Flames front office.
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