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Islanders Fans Know Exactly What Flames Fans Are Going Through



New York Islanders, Johnny Gaudreau, John Tavares
Newly acquired Johnny Gaudreau at his Columbus Blue Jackets introduction press conference (Photo-via Columbus Blue Jackets Twitter)

On July 13, Johnny Gaudreau turned down the final offer from the Calgary Flames, the team that drafted him 104th overall back in 2011, the team he spent his first nine NHL seasons with.

After a career season, with 40 goals and 75 assists, and a postseason in which the Flames made it to the semi-finals for the first time since 2015, backed by a double-overtime goal by Gaudreau himself in Game 7 against the Dallas Stars, the unrestricted free agent joined the Columbus Blue Jackets.

It was a crushing day for Calgary Flames fans as their franchise player has moved on just like that—with no sort of return coming their way besides broken hearts.

And New York Islanders fans know too well what that feeling is like.

As everyone remembers, back in the summer of 2018, former first overall pick in 2009, John Tavares declined a return to the New York Islanders after a nine-year stay and joined his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs.

Once news broke that offseason that the Leafs were interested in Tavares, it seemed like that was that.

If you had the chance to play for the team you grew up with, you would go too. Let’s not pretend that you wouldn’t.

The problem with John Tavares and his departure was the fact that he told then general manager Garth Snow he wanted to stay, and instead of moving Tavares for assets at the 2018 Trade Deadline, Snow decided to take his word for it.

Then he left for nothing.

Toronto Maple Leafs offered Tavares $11 million a year for seven years.

That was the same AAV the New York Islanders offered, with an eighth year. But home was calling, and he answered.

At least Tavares thanked the fans soon after in a story for The Players Tribune. Johnny Gaudreau has not done anything for the fans of Calgary as of yet.

Lesson no. 1: Get agreements in writing.

Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving was in a tough spot, like Garth Snow. Did he take his star player’s word for it?  The Flames were cruising in 2021-22, and trading Johnny Gaudreau was not even a consideration. It would have been a move that would have had the Flames fan base, well, up in flames.

At the deadline, the talks about moving a superstar came out of Nashville, as the Predators were having a hard time coming to terms with superstar Filip Forsberg. Now Nashville was a bubble playoff team and elected to keep Forsberg through the deadline.

Fortunately for Nashville general manager David Poile, Filip Forsberg agreed to an eight-year extension worth $68 million ($8.5 M AAV).

Back to Gaudreau.

All the chatter prior to free agency and during the season was how much Johnny Gaudreau wanted to stay a Calgary Flame. Leaving the Alberta province was never off the table, but the belief was if they could make it work, he would be back in red and black (and orange).

As time elapsed, actions started to speak much louder than words. Truth started to turn into fiction.

Was Gaudreau really concerned with going closer to home or was it more about leaving Calgary?

Treliving said Gaudreau’s eventual decision to leave Calgary was based on a family decision. The Flames threw the house at Gaudreau, but he did not want the key.

He did not want the key for $10.5 million a year, for the next eight years.

Columbus, however, is nowhere close to home.

What was interesting about this move by Columbus, per general manager Jarmo Kekäläinen was that once he learned that Columbus was a place that Gaudreau wanted to go, then he started to crunch the numbers with management to make it work.

The Blue Jackets were not going to go after him, which is why they were so late to the Gaudreau sweepstakes.

Better late than never, I suppose.

That’s the main difference between Tavares and Gaudreau. Tavares wanted to go home, his hometown team had the cap space, and it happened.

Gaudreau wanted to play for his childhood favorite Philadelphia Flyers (without openly saying it), but when they did not have the room, other plans had to be made. Again, it was clearly not a money move as Gaudreau left a substantial amount of money on the table (Over $15 million).

It is worth mentioning that the Columbus Blue Jackets were a team Gaudreau was interested in prior to hitting the open market.

Gaudreau, upon his arrival in Columbus, said he wanted to be closer to home, and he would go wherever the fit was for him and his family as he and his wife are expecting a baby.

But then Gaudreau said something that caught everyone’s attention.

“I always dreamed about playing a tad closer to home. It didn’t matter where I was signing. Our decision was it was best for us not to go back to Calgary,” Gaudreau said at his Columbus Blue Jackets introduction presser.

What a twist, eh?

So did Gaudreau lie to Calgary Flames ownership? Did Treliving tell a white lie to the fans to hide them from the truth?

To go back to the Tavares decision, it was a move that crushed the fanbase. From a hockey standpoint, the Islanders were better off without Tavares, as certain players got more of a chance to play, and also, with the acquisitions of Lou Lamoriello as president of the club, and his hiring of Barry Trotz, the Islanders played like a team, with each line having a role.

With Tavares on the Islanders, it was his show, and everyone just needed to keep up. That’s why success was few and far between.

But again, Tavares was going home. That did not make the pill any easier to swallow. The anger by the fanbase was not that he left, but the way he left.

Gaudreau crushed the Flames.

He crushed management, who did everything in their power to keep him. The Flames, my dark horse team to win the Stanley Cup given their stellar goaltending, gritty style of play, and depth, lost their best player.

And we could see a domino effect because of Gaudreau’s decision.

There are rumors that Matthew Tkachuk, an absolute thrill to watch on the ice, is going to want out. Eric Gudbranson, who played 18:08 minutes per night on the backend for the Flames, left to join the Blue Jackets on a four-year deal worth $16 million.

The Flames did bring back defenseman Nikita Zadorov and now have the cap space to go get a Nazem Kadri-like player. They just lost a player in Gaudreau, who notched 116 points in 2021-22.  No player they bring in will be able to match that production.

The Flames were so close. They were right there. They had the Batman. They had the Robin. And they had the cast on the backend and in goal to be a team that was competitive for years.

But after Wednesday, the organization, which had been struggling with fan support due to on-ice performances until recently, is seemingly back to square one.

Would the acquisition of Kadri be enough to keep them a competitive force in the West?

When John Tavares left the island, rookie Mathew Barzal was set to become the no. 1 center after just winning the Calder Trophy, with a stat line of 22-63-85. There were depths at center in Brock Nelson, Valtteri Filppula, and Casey Cizikas.

The Islanders went on to finish second in the Metropolitan Division in 2018-19, sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the playoffs, before being swept by the Carolina Hurricanes, who were then swept by the Boston Bruins, who lost to the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final.

What will the fate be for the 2022-23 Calgary Flames?

Regardless the coming day, weeks, and months will be tough for Calgary Flames fans, just like it was for the New York Islanders faithful in the summer of 2018.


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