On Thursday night, the Calgary Flames fell victim to the magic of Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid, whose overtime dagger ended their postseason run. As Edmonton gets packing for either Colorado or St. Louis, the Flames are cleaning out their lockers and preparing to embark on their offseason.
And now, the future of 28-year-old Calgary star Johnny Gaudreau becomes one of the main focuses across the NHL scene.
In April, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving said they would move heaven and earth to keep Gaudreau in Calgary. But if they were unable to come to terms on a new deal, could the New Jersey native be heading to Long Island to join forces with Mathew Barzal?
Now it seems like a fantasy signing. A superstar in his prime coming to Long Island to help the New York Islanders bounce back after a rough 2021-22 season.
Although the chances may be slim, it does not mean it’s impossible.
Is Gaudreau Willing to Leave Calgary?
During the All-Star break, NYI Hockey Now heard from someone close to Gaudreau that if he had left Calgary, there was heavy interest in the New York Islanders as a destination.
Per the source, at that time: Gaudreau wants to stay in Calgary but if it doesn’t work out, he’ll call Lou first.
That was before the Calgary Flames went on their playoff run. That was also before New York Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello fired head coach Barry Trotz.
Johnny Gaudreau is coming off his best NHL season, with 40 goals and 75 assists in 82 games. His 40 goals were ninth in the NHL and his 115 points were tied for second in the NHL with Florida Panthers Jonathan Huberdeau.
The 2011 fourth-round selection had three goals and 11 assists in 12 postseason games. With the earlier than expected bounce from the postseason, there is likely a will and desire for Gaudreau to get Calgary over the hump and into a Stanley Cup Final.
After all, he has spent his entire nine-year NHL career in Calgary, and they are right there. Not that this holds any weight, but they were my projected Stanley Cup winners.
What’s the Price Tag?
Based on the season Johnny Gaudreau had, he will be looking at a contract with an annual value of $9 million-plus, either from the Flames or another market.
Gaudreau’s agent should be asking for $10 million annually, given the season he just had.
The Flames can sign Gaudreau to an eight-year deal, bringing his annual value closer to that $9 million number.
Gaudreau’s past contract, which expired following this season, carried an annual value of $6.75 million. At the time of his deal, Gaudreau had come off an almost point-per-game season, with 78 points in 79 games (30 goals, 48 assists).
Since then, Gaudreau has had three seasons with more than 82 points and two seasons with over 30 goals.
Can the Islanders Afford Gaudreau?
The New York Islanders have $12 million in cap space and have one critical player to sign, on the rise defenseman Noah Dobson. The 22-year-old is coming off a breakout year, his first 50-point season, with 13 goals and 38 assists in 80 games. The restricted free agent will require around $4.5 million annually, depending on whether he takes a bridge deal.
That leaves the New York Islanders with around eight or so million available to throw at a free agent, and that’s before they offer Kieffer Bellows his RFA deal, which should be around $800,000.
That cap space could increase with the movement of forward Josh Bailey, who is owed $5 million this upcoming season. Another player that could be moved is netminder Semyon Varlamov, who is also owed $5 million this upcoming season.
The Islanders could also move Anthony Beauvillier and his $4.15 million annually over the next two seasons, with there being many more suitors than that for Josh Bailey.
So if the Islanders move either of the two, they will then have $13 million in space, which would allow them the room to take on a contract like the one that Gaudreau will require.
Does Signing Gaudreau Make Sense?
This past season showed that the New York Islanders do need a top-six forward but also need to upgrade their defense as well. If the Islanders do sign Gaudreau for, let’s say, $9.5 million annually, that would leave them with just $2.5 million.
Is that enough to improve the defensive side of the puck?
And then we have to discuss Mathew Barzal, who has one year left, with a cap hit of $7 million. His next deal has a lot to do with how he plays under new head coach Lane Lambert, as his offensive output will dictate it all.
As we have seen, playing with Barzal is not an easy task, and even though Gaudreau is a world-class talent, that does not mean they will have that chemistry.
They also would need to fight over their shared no. 13…which I don’t think would be a problem.
Despite the play-making ability, Gaudreau finished the regular season tied for 16th in the NHL with 262 shots on goal. That equates to 3.20 shots per game. If you are playing on a line with Barzal, he needs shooters and effective shooters.
Gaudreau owned a shooting percentage of 15.3% this past regular season, the second-highest mark of his NHL career. That would have ranked second on the Islanders, behind captain Anders Lee’s 17.6 shooting percentage.
The Islanders have been longing for an elite forward. They missed out on New York Rangers forward Artemi Panarin in the summer of 2019. When the opportunity presented itself to acquire St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko in the summer of 2021, the Islanders and every team in the NHL decided to pass on him.
The Islanders are not getting much younger and still have the core that went to back-to-back semi-finals before missing the playoffs this past season. Based on every team in the Metropolitan Division and based on every team still vying for a Stanley Cup, they each have elite players on the offensive side of the puck.
And if Johnny Gaudreau does decide to leave Calgary, the Islanders need to put themselves in a position to acquire the big fish if they want to go from a borderline playoff team in an 82-game season to a competitive team in the offensively driven Metropolitan Division.