NHL market buzz: What comes next for Johnny Gaudreau?

Eric Francis and Ken Reid discuss the Calgary Flames' loss of Johnny Gaudreau as a free agent, and how the Flames will approach free agency in attempts to replace him.

Free Agency isn’t even underway, and already we’ve had two earth-shattering, league-rattling announcements.

Just after 8 p.m. ET, news broke that Johnny Gaudreau informed the Calgary Flames he would test free agency. Asked if there was any chance the winger would circle back to Southern Alberta, GM Brad Treliving replied he didn’t anticipate it happening.

An emotional Treliving went out of his way to be gracious, accepting it was a family decision. (One source described Gaudreau’s call to the team as “brutal for everyone.”) But I do think the Flames thought they were close, with one executive saying his team heard an eight-year deal with an AAV of $10.5M was going to get done not long before we learned it went the opposite way.

Three hours later, our inboxes beeped with a Pittsburgh Penguins media release — announcing Evgeni Malkin’s four-year, $24.4M extension. That was 29 hours after originally indicating he was going to the market. 

Malkin’s contract matched what was proposed in discussions one day earlier, only to be derailed by his complete frustration at the process. According to multiple sources, a critical part of the reversal was getting the proud, fiery future Hall-of-Famer to catch his breath, cool down and re-consider. It’s not Sidney Crosby’s way to publicly opine on roster moves, but, someday, I hope he gives us a glance of the role he played.

So, with just hours until the bell rings, here are some things to keep an eye on:

• All eyes are on New Jersey and Philadelphia for Gaudreau. The Flyers have indicated James van Riemsdyk will not be traded, because they are not willing to pay what it will cost to move the cap hit. One source indicated it was similar to what Toronto sent Carolina — a first-round draft pick — for the Hurricanes to take Patrick Marleau in 2019. And teams prefer Philadelphia’s 2023 pick, not the Florida 2024 selection acquired for Claude Giroux.

Assuming the Flyers stick to that philosophy, it’s hard to see a path for Gaudreau — barring another major move. If they’re in, they’re slow-playing this hand. They’re also believed to have interest in Dylan Strome.

New Jersey was the name on many lips Tuesday night. I’d be surprised if it was the Islanders. Let’s see what Wednesday brings. 

• With Malkin back to Pittsburgh, look for Vincent Trocheck in Manhattan. That appears to be his best fit.

• Florida and Ottawa remain the leaders for Giroux, with Carolina lurking.

• Colorado could be fascinating. The Avalanche have indicated they’d like to explore ways of keeping Nazem Kadri. It seems impossible without major surgery, but they are trying. Kadri will receive initial offers Wednesday and go from there. 

It could also go either way with Josh Manson

• Mason Marchment is very popular, although Florida has tried to keep him. Also popular: David Perron.

Ondrej Palat’s got a few teams surrounding him. I’d heard Jersey, but no idea if that can work if Gaudreau ends up there. Seattle, too. The Kraken are also expected to be hard after John Klingberg and possibly a veteran centre like Noel Acciari (had heard possibility of Toronto with Acciari, too.) Andre Burakovsky would make a lot of sense for Seattle, too.

• Carolina, Colorado and Montreal are believed to have interest in Brett Kulak

• Also heard San Jose, in addition to Brent Burns, could be moving Kevin Labanc

• I will guess Andrew Copp to Detroit, because I like to try and figure out what Steve Yzerman will do. There is also belief the Dylan Larkin extension is trending in a positive direction. 

• Ilya Mikheyev guess: Washington. 

Now, go to bed. We’ve got an early Wednesday.

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