Johnny Gaudreau shocks free agent market by signing with Blue Jackets

When the news dropped that top free agent forward Johnny Gaudreau signed a seven-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday evening, it sent shockwaves through the hockey world.

From the moment he told the Calgary Flames he was headed to the market, almost everyone projected him to land closer to his Salem, New Jersey home. His likely first destination of choice was to play with the Philadelphia Flyers, but they were reluctant to attach a first-round pick for a team to take on James Van Riemsdyk’s contract and thus missed out.

Everyone felt the New Jersey Devils were the favorite, maybe even the New York Islanders, but that’s not where he went.

Gaudreau inked a 7-year deal with the Blue Jackets for $68.25 million, with an AAV of $9.75 million.

Johnny Gaudreau signs with Blue Jackets

johnny gaudreau
Jan 18, 2022; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) shoot the puck against the Florida Panthers during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

“Johnny Gaudreau is a superstar in the National Hockey League, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him to the Columbus Blue Jackets family,” said GM Jarmo Kekalainen in a news release. “He is an elite player with great character that makes the players around him better. We are thrilled to add a player of his caliber to our group. This is an exciting day for our franchise, our fans and the city of Columbus.”  

Gaudreau, 28, had a career year posting 115 points (40 G – 75A) in 82 games. The six-time all-star will now lace up his skates in Ohio after reportedly leaving more money on the table in Alberta.

According to Pierre LeBrun, Gaudreau had an 8-year offer for $10.5 million from the Flames. He also turned an offer from New Jersey that was close-to or better-than the Blue Jackets’ deal.

“He told us this was one of his true primary destinations,” Kekalainen said. “We were like, ‘OK, wow, is this real?’ Once we realized that yeah, he wants to come here, we got into serious talks. We obviously let him know that he was one of the players that we desired the most, and when it got real serious to where he was like, ‘OK, I want to come there,’ then we got it through the finish line pretty quickly.”

Flames GM Brad Treliving wished Gaudreau well but could not hide his disappointment on Wednesday.

“You’re not going to just go out and sign someone to replace Johnny,” Treliving said. “The wrong move right now, I can tell you, is to knee-jerk reaction and just try to rush out and replace the player with the wrong response.”

Treliving also revealed that the choice to leave Calgary by Gaudreau was a “family decision.” The Blue Jackets will hold a press conference with their new star at 1 PM ET today.

For those wondering, a flight from Columbus to New Jersey is roughly one hour and fifteen minutes.