The hysterical response to Johnny Gaudreau’s decision to leave millions on the table in Calgary and instead sign with Columbus was indeed just that. Players are routinely lambasted across the professional sports landscape for being greedy mercenaries. Now this one is being targeted for taking a road less traveled.
Why No. 13’s path took him to Ohio is anyone’s guess. It is possible that he — and his wife, who is expecting — fell in love with the city, much as Rick Nash did pretty much from the moment he arrived as the 2002 draft’s first-overall selection. It is possible Blue Jackets president John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen sold a vision of the franchise that coincided with the All-Star left winger’s.
It is also possible that the nearly 29-year-old’s agent, Lewis Gross, overestimated the market and number of bidders that would be in on Gaudreau.
If true, Gaudreau — who signed a seven-year deal worth $68.25 million — wouldn’t be the only one to experience this phenomenon. The flat cap has had a significant impact on the environment, including the rash of players who did not receive qualifiers because of concerns over arbitration outcomes. Supply has exceeded demand. No one will have to start a GoFundMe effort on behalf of any of these guys, but still, this is a new reality.
I have no idea why the Flyers did not make an honest effort to clear enough space to sign Gaudreau, and I am skeptical that Philadelphia general manager Chuck Fletcher could cogently explain this decision. The Flyers are a mess. Fletcher has been a GM in the NHL for 13 years, the first nine of which with the Wild. His teams have won a grand total of two playoff rounds.
The Islanders are a whole different column, stuck in a salary-cap calamity created by GM Lou Lamoriello’s decision to grant lucrative contract extensions to just about every veteran on the teams that fell short in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This is the anti-Lamoriello from his days in New Jersey … and that was even before the 2005-06 introduction of the hard cap.
It is understandable that the good folks in Calgary feel betrayed. But their ire is misdirected. I don’t care how many times Gaudreau may have indicated he would consider staying. I don’t particularly care about the timeline of his decision-making process.
The fact is that when the Flames were unable to get his signature on an extension, it was GM Brad Treliving’s obligation to explore the rental trade market just as it was on the Islanders’ management and ownership to do the same during the unfortunate John Taveras experience. It is foolhardy to operate a franchise on hope.
Gaudreau, who has a chance to make a similar impact on the Jackets as Artemi Panarin did on the Rangers, made his choice. So did the Flames, who entered the playoffs with legit Stanley Cup aspirations before being dragged in five games by the Oilers. Each will have to live with it. Now we will see if the winger lives happily ever after.
The Penguins and their legions seem extremely impressed with themselves for keeping both Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang on long-term deals that will enable the team to run it back over and over again with much of the same crew that has not won a postseason round since 2018, going 6-15 in the process. Congrats!
And when the Penguins re-upped Malkin, that opened the door for the Rangers to sign Pittsburgh native Vincent Trocheck, who otherwise would likely have been out of reach had a bidding war ensued.
Is it a lack of space or lack of interest that is preventing the Islanders from adding Sonny Milano to the mix?
Ondrej Palat brings a whole lot of skill, creativity, work ethic and championship pedigree to the Devils, but the question is whether and how well the winger will adapt coming from a team with perhaps the most structure in the league to one bereft of it.
How is it possible that the NHL has somehow run out of marquee No. 1 goaltenders?
By the way, to that point, I enjoyed Rick DiPietro’s spin on the state of NHL goaltending during ESPN’s free-agency coverage. He, Kevin Weekes and Brian Boucher were on point and educational without the need for shtick.
Maybe it’s me, but Toronto’s latest stab at finding a guy in nets who can win a round is reminiscent of the Flyers’ flailing through the post-Ron Hextall era when they most infamously jumped on John Vanbiesbrouck in 1998 when both Mike Richter and Curtis Joseph were available on the free agent market.
Now that was a goalie carousel.
This year was a wheel.
No organization has descended into a quagmire as quickly and as inefficiently as Vegas, which was gifted (in exchange for Bill Foley’s $500 million entry fee) the greatest cap advantage in NHL history and immediately forfeited it with wild overreach on just about every shiny toy on the market.
I’m pretty sure I’d rather have Nino Niederreiter on the left side of Carolina’s checking line with Jordan Staal and Jesper Fast than Max Pacioretty on the top six.
And this notion that the ’Canes will improve with Jesperi Kotkaniemi replacing Trocheck in the middle, well, get back to me on that one in April, OK?
Hockey Hall of Fame observations:
If Guy Carbonneau is in, so should Butch Goring.
If Dick Duff is in, so should Claude Provost.
If Daniel Alfredsson is in, so should Patrik Elias.