Six hours into the new league year, Johnny Gaudreau’s free agency destination remains unclear.
On Tuesday evening, Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving announced Gaudreau, longtime face of the franchise and first-time unrestricted free agent — would be testing the market after eight years in Calgary.
As Treliving indicated, Gaudreau’s decision was made with family in mind — the 28-year-old hails from Salem County, New Jersey, and a number of reports have pointed to his desire to be closer to home. That has put the Devils, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers in the spotlight whenever talks of Gaudreau’s potential destinations have come up, with Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reporting late Tuesday that “all eyes are on New Jersey and Philadelphia for Gaudreau.”
On Wednesday afternoon, however, during a media availability following the first rush of signing season, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said the Flyers were not in on Gaudreau, and essentially ruled out any possibility of Philadelphia landing the local star due to a lack of cap space.
Fletcher signed defenceman Tony Deangelo to a two-year, $10-million deal last week, and on Wednesday brought in a pair of veterans in Nicolas Deslauriers (four years at a $1.75 million AAV) and Justin Braun (one year worth $1.75 million). As things stand now, the Flyers are over the salary cap.
The contract of James van Riemsdyk has been in a the spotlight in Philadelphia — coming in at $7 million for one more year, it would take a sweetener in order for a team to take it on. Per Friedman, the Flyers are not willing to pay that cost of moving him.
That leaves the Devils and Islanders, but reports around the league indicate they’re not the only ones making a strong push for Gaudreau’s services. According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff and Aaron Portzline of The Athletic, the Columbus Blue Jackets have also made their interest known — and are reportedly prepared to pay.
Gaudreau, considered the top UFA of this class of 2022, is coming off his most productive season to date, registering 40 goals and 115 points to lead the Flames to the top of the Pacific Division.