It went almost right down to the wire but eventually, the Calgary Flames and RW Johnny Gaudreau found common ground on a long-term arrangement. Given that the team was adamant Gaudreau’s new deal not exceed that recently signed by top defenseman Mark Giordano – $6.75MM annually – and the player’s insistence for a more lucrative pact, the two sides were able to bridge a sizable gap in relatively short order. According to Eric Francis of the Calgary Sun, it wasn’t until Gaudreau himself became active in the negotiations and realized the Flames offer was more than fair given the circumstances, that the deal was struck.
Because he only had two years of NHL experience, Gaudreau was not eligible for arbitration nor could he sign an offer sheet with another organization. Without these rights, Gaudreau’s leverage was severely limited. Gaudreau’s pact surpasses that recently reached with Sean Monahan and matches Giordano’s.
While Gaudreau may have backed off his salary demands somewhat, the Flames had to give in other areas as well to get the deal done. Gaudreau received a partial no-trade clause in the final year of the arrangement and the contract buys out only one year of unrestricted free agency. It was thought Calgary was pushing for a max contract of eight years but that would have bought out three seasons of free agency and likely would have justified a higher average annual salary demand.
As Francis notes, at the end of the day the Flames get one of the league’s best young talents and a cornerstone of their franchise under long-term contract for a price that shouldn’t hinder their salary cap flexibility. On the other hand Gaudreau gets a nice raise for a player with only two years of NHL experience and he will be eligible to test unrestricted free agency when he is 29-years-old.
Elsewhere around the NHL:
- Despite a disappointing 2015-16 campaign split between Carolina and the New York Rangers, Eric Staal was still expected to land a lucrative deal as one of the few free agents with a track record of top line offensive production. Surprisingly, Staal agreed to terms with the Minnesota Wild on a three-year deal worth $3.5MM annually; an AAV notably less than what he may have received elsewhere. But, as Mike Russo of the Star Tribune writes, it was more important for Staal to find the right fit than it was about landing a big contract. Staal: “I know I can be a very good player. So my focus July 1 [in free agency] was finding a fit where I’m going to be counted on, and get a chance and be on a team that’s going to win. This team is good enough to win and good enough to win now. I feel like this is almost the second part of my career, the start of the second half.” While the general consensus is that the soon-to-be-32-year-old Staal has slowed down, Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t see it that way: “He can skate as fast as he ever did. Everybody told me he slowed down, yet every drill we do skating-wise, he’s led. His shot is the same, the way he handles the puck is the same, the way he practices has been tremendous. He’s a very smart person. Just a real pro.” Staal is expected to assume the top center slot with the Wild and will be counted on to help lead the way offensively.
- The Anaheim Ducks boast a tremendous one-two punch in center Ryan Getzlaf and right wing Corey Perry. Over the years the Ducks have played the two stars together on the same line and while the duo has provided excellent production, the team has failed in numerous attempts to find the right skater to make the duo a trio. Patrick Maroon, Carl Hagelin and David Perron are just a few of the players the Ducks have employed on the left side of Getzlaf, but none managed to stick for long. But perhaps the team has finally found a long-term solution and as Eric Stephens of The Orange County Register writes, the young and talented Nick Ritchie views the opportunity to play on the same line as Getzlaf and Perry as a “privilege.” Ritchie, just 20, has tremendous size at 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds and enough skill to eventually develop into one of the league’s top power forwards. He debuted in the NHL in 2015-16, netting just two goals and four points in 33 games but if he can first earn, then keep his spot on the top line, he’s likely to have a more successful sophomore campaign.
- Veteran winger Ruslan Fedotenko announced his official retirement following a 12-year NHL career, per a release on the NHLPA website. Fedetenko bounced around the league, spending time with five different organizations and winning two Stanley Cups. In 863 career contests, Fedotenko potted 173 goals and tallied 366 points to go along with 472 penalty minutes. While he hasn’t appeared in an NHL game since 2012-13, Fedetenko attempted a comeback this past season, signing with the Minnesota Wild. He would play in 29 games for the Wild’s AHL affiliate in Iowa, scoring three goals and seven points. Fedotenko may be best remembered for scoring both goals in the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2 – 1 Stanley Cup-clinching game seven win in 2004 over Calgary.