Johnny Gaudreau (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)
Flames fans can rest easy, as star Johnny Gaudreau won’t be eligible for offer sheets when he becomes a restricted free agent this off-season. Gaudreau, 22, is seventh in league scoring with 27 goals and 71 points, and the 12th highest scoring player over the past two campaigns.
The Flames have yet to come to terms with restricted free agent-to-be Johnny Gaudreau, but there’s no reason for Calgary GM Brad Treliving to worry about a potential offer sheet coming down and forcing the Flames’ hand.
During TSN’s Insider Trading, Bob McKenzie reported that Gaudreau, 22, will not be eligible to ink an offer sheet this off-season as he has not played the necessary amount of games. Though Gaudreau will have completed his three-year, entry-level deal at the end of 2015-16, the first year of his deal ticked off when he appeared in one game at the end of the 2013-14 season.
Because Gaudreau went from the NHL to the World Championship — not the AHL — and failed to play 10 professional games in his first season, it did not count as a year of professional experience. In order to earn one year of experience, Gaudreau would have had to play 10 games total between the NHL and AHL. Gaudreau signed his entry-level deal as a 20-year-old, meaning he needs three years experience to become eligible for Group 2 Free Agency and also earn arbitration rights.
Gaudreau’s ineligibility for an offer sheet is great news for the Flames should Calgary wish to ink Gaudreau to a bridge deal instead of signing him to a long-term deal. It had previously been reported that Gaudreau was likely to sign one of the richest deals in team history, but the ability for a bridge deal — a short-term contract that would keep Gaudreau an RFA following the deal’s final season — may hurt Gaudreau’s ability to get a deal similar to that of other franchise-leading RFAs. One close comparable has been St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko, who signed an eight-year, $60-million contract in July 2015.
If Gaudreau was eligible for an offer sheet, there’s almost no doubt he’d be worth at least as much as Tarasenko, but that no other team can negotiate a deal with the Flames’ leading scorer could hurt his leverage in negotiations. Gaudreau would be a prime target for an offer sheet, especially given that in his second season in the league he’s seventh in scoring with 27 goals and 71 points in 72 games. Over his 153 total games in the league, Gaudreau has 52 goals and 136 points and he’s the 12th highest scoring player over the past two seasons.
That said, it’s likely only a matter of time before Gaudreau signs his big-money deal, and he recently told the Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis that he doesn’t envision himself elsewhere.
“I’m going to sign whatever my agent thinks is the best contract for me personally, whether it’s eight years, three years or five years, whatever is the best option for me he’ll do because he’s got my best interests in mind,” Gaudreau told Francis. “However many years it is I think I have a great fit here in Calgary, I think the fans are great to me and our team and I love the city out here so there’s nothing to complain about as far as that stuff.”
Gaudreau will be one of a handful of RFAs the Flames need to take care of this off-season, with Sean Monahan, Joe Colborne, Josh Jooris and Joni Ortio also coming to the end of their deals. But outside of possibly Monahan, there’s no denying Gaudreau is the most important piece for the Flames going forward. His deal — offer sheet eligible or not — will likely reflect that.