Is Johnny Gaudreau pricing himself off the Calgary Flames?

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Johnny Gaudreau has surpassed his career high of 99 points which he set as a 25 year-old during the Calgary Flames 2018-19 season. He potted two assists on April 12 against the Seattle Kraken to set the mark and he has 8 more games to add to those totals.

Coming into this season, he and the Flames were talking about a contract extension but not enough progress was made. The two sides decided to wait until this season ends before finalizing a new deal.

“That’s between my agent and [GM Brad Treliving], and I probably won’t answer many questions for you throughout the year on that,” Gaudreau said at camp.

What needs to be asked now is if Gaudreau has priced himself off the Flames?

Johnny Gaudreau joins Flames 100 point club

When Gaudreau hit the century mark he became only the 9th member of the Flames to do so in franchise history. His next two points will tie him for 8th with Mike Bullard and Al MacInnis.

“He’s special,” said Kent Nilsson, who did it twice for the Flames. “He is as good as anyone.”

The 28 year-old is going to be worth a lot on the open market this summer should he get to July 13. His current deal comes with an AAV of $6.75 Million, and what I once believed would be a slight increase is no more.

Gaudreau was coming off two average seasons where he potted 58 points in 70 games in 2019-20, and then 49 in 56 in 2020-21. Maybe if the Flames had the foresight to throw $8 Million for 7 or 8 years prior to this season, they could’ve avoided this pickle.

Gaudreau’s next contract?

johnny gaudreau contract
Mar 5, 2022; Denver, Colorado, USA; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) celebrates after scoring the winning goal against the Colorado Avalanche in overtime at Ball Arena. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

“That’s a done deal. We’re going to get that done,” assistant GM Craig Conroy told Sportsnet 960 in February. “I just don’t know when.”

That’s great news but what will Gaudreau’s next contract look like? And most importantly, what impact will it have on the Flames ability to fill out their lineup?

Per CapFriendly, the Flames have around $26 million in cap space for next season needing to not only re-sign Gaudreau but a slew of other players. They will also likely look to extend Calle Jarnkrok and Nikita Zadorov. The harsh reality is there’s limited space.

All in all the Flames will have around 10 skaters and 2 goalies under term for the 2022-23 campaign. How much they spend on the three players mentioned will determine what they can do with the rest of their lineup.

Let’s face it, $26 million isn’t enough to sign 7 more forwards and 3 defensemen.

Of course, the most important thing they need to do is retain the offensive engine of this team. So what will Gaudreau’s next deal be? For that we need to take into account his position and look at some of the top left wings in the NHL.

You can start with the two most prominent names out there in Artemi Panarin and Alex Ovechkin. Panarin makes $11.6 million which is not anything Gaudreau would get on the open market. Remember, Gaudreau had two average seasons previous to this offensive outburst. As for Ovechkin, he makes $9.5 million and is chasing Wayne Gretzky’s all-time mark for goals by an NHL player. Another non-starter for comps.

When I look for a legit comparable, Minnesota Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov stands out. This past summer, he signed a monster $45 million dollar deal for five years ($9M AAV). A key note is that Kaprizov would’ve received more if he signed long term, but he did not want to go beyond 5 years.

With all that under consideration, it’s hard for me to see Gaudreau sign for less than $9 million per season. Which means that the Flames will only have $17 million remaining to fill out their lineup with 6 more forwards and 3 three defenseman.

That’s why it’s fair to ask if Gaudreau has priced himself out of Calgary.

Trading Sean Monahan to retain Gaudreau

There is a way the Flames can give Gaudreau whatever he asks, and retain both Zadorov and Jarnkork. They need to trade Sean Monahan and his 1 year remaining at $6.375M.

Monahan, 27, is a center which already will have value on the trade market. Even retaining a small amount of his salary, say $1 to $2 million should still put the Flames in a better position to field a contender next season.

The retention of salary will likely be necessary as Monahan has a history of injury which includes season ending hip surgery in April. He closed out his campaign with just 23 points in 65 games.

“When your body is telling you you can’t do it, you can’t do it,” GM Brad Treliving said. “We’ll get it fixed and move forward.”

However, at the right price, teams will take a chance on Monahan. It will also give the Flames a chance to keep Gaudreau and ensure they continue to improve the team for next season.