Report: Gaudreau starts work on ‘biggest contract in Flames history’

Johnny Gaudreau shoots and scores from a sharp angle to help the Flames take a 3-2 lead over the Blue Jackets in the third period on Thursday night.

Ha. To hear Johnny Hockey talk about it, his forthcoming millions sound like a minor annoyance or pesky chore, like shoveling the steps.

“[A new contract] is just something to get out of the way,” Gaudreau told Eric Francis. “Whatever is best for the Flames and whatever is best for us, we’ll come to an agreement and we’ll figure something out.”

According to Francis, who works for Sportsnet and the Calgary Sun, the figuring-out begins this week. Gaudreau’s agent, Lewis Gross, has flown to Calgary to help Gaudreau with some promotional engagements. Lewis and Brad Treliving will have coffee, the Flames’ general manager said.

That cup of joe, Francis writes, will begin “the framework for what will undoubtedly be the biggest contract in Calgary Flames history.”

“It’s good to have him out here to sit down and chat about things and what will happen next year,” said Gaudreau. “Honestly, we haven’t talked about [the contract] much, but now that he’s out here, it might come up a little more now. We’ve been kind of struggling on the ice lately, so we haven’t been worrying about it too much because we’re trying to hop back up in the standings.”

Individually, Johnny Gaudreau, 22, is having the type of contract year players and agents dream of. Precisely a point-per-game player, the Jersey boy leads Calgary with 22 goals and 33 assists in 55 games — good for seventh in NHL scoring. A 3-on-3 wonder, Gaudreau's six game-winners tie him for fifth overall. And the way he danced through the league's elite at the NHL All-Star Game, the smallest guy would've been the MVP story had the tallest guy not gone full Rudy.

Gaudreau becomes a restricted free agent for the first time on July 1, when his $1-million-per-year contract expires. That he’s not eligible for arbitration should give Treliving some measure of leverage, but it will be interesting to see what gets finalized, both in length (buy UFA years? bridge?) and dollars.

Gaudreau should be priority No. 1 once the trade deadline passes, but in the next few months Treliving must also puzzle out the futures of Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne, Markus Granlund, Josh Jooris, Kris Russell, David Jones and Jiri Hudler — all of whom are on expiring contracts. Oh, yeah, and the Flames have zero NHL goalies under contract for 2016-17.

So, how much does Gaudreau get?

Francis points to the eight-year, $60-million deal ($7.5 million cap hit) St. Louis's Vladimir Tarasenko inked last summer as the closest comparable.

For comparison's sake, Jarome Iginla's cap hit peaked at $7 million during his Flames reign. As of now, captain Mark Giordano will begin 2016-17 as the highest-paid Flame at a $6.75-million cap hit. Do you really give a player 10 years younger who plays a less significant position more than your captain?

Gaudreau is part of a deep and compelling 2016 RFA class. Florida is in love with centre Aleksander Barkov, who was also in a contract year. He signed for six years at $5.9 million per. Do the Flames wait to see how much the Avalanche commit to Nathan MacKinnon or the Predators give to Filip Forsberg? Or is it vice versa?

“At this point, where we are at with the contract, you’d have to ask Brad — it’s his baby — but it’s always positive when you have the agent in town and meet and come together and see where everyone is going in more than a 10-minute conversation,” Flames assistant GM Craig Conroy told Francis.

“You go to lunch, feel each other out and see where you are at. At this point, I really think this is the beginning stages.”

The beginning of something big, no doubt.