Johnny Gaudreau. (Derek Leung/Getty Images)
According to a report, Johnny Gaudreau and the Flames could start talking contract soon, and there’s reason to believe Gaudreau could sign the largest contract in franchise history. Gaudreau, 22, is currently seventh in league scoring with 22 goals and 55 points in 55 games.
Calgary may not be front and center in the post-season race any longer, but there are more than a few reasons to keep an eye on the Flames as the regular season winds down. One of the biggest reasons is the contract status of Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames’ 22-year-old star.
Gaudreau is in the final season of his three-year, entry-level deal and Calgary’s leading scorer could be in for a big time contract extension before the season’s through. According to The Calgary Sun’s Eric Francis, Gaudreau’s agent, Lewis Gross, is in Calgary to visit Gaudreau and GM Brad Treliving said he and Gross will be sitting down to talk. Treliving wouldn’t say it would necessarily be about the contract, though.
Treliving said the on-ice struggles for the Flames have put a damper on any contract negotiations of late — “(W)e haven’t been worrying about it too much because we’re trying to hop back up in the standings,” he told Francis — but that doesn’t mean Treliving won’t take this opportunity to talk deal. And if they’re looking to lock up Gaudreau long-term, there’s no reason to believe ‘Johnny Hockey’ won’t be signing the richest deal in Flames history.
“Right now is probably not the best time,” Gaudreau told Francis of potential talks. “The trade deadline is coming up, and we’re trying to fight for a playoff spot, and it’s a difficult time to be worrying about something like that when you have the rest of the season after trade deadline and the summer. We’ll see what happens, but I’m excited to have my agent here and talk to him a bit.”
Once Gaudreau and his agent do talk, though, there could be big things coming for the sophomore winger. As Francis points out, the previous high-water mark for the Flames when it comes to contracts was the deal dished out to captain Mark Giordano this past summer. The six-year, $40.5-million extension put Giordano ahead of Dion Phaneuf’s six-year, $39-million deal and more than $5 million up on Jarome Iginla’s five-year, $35-million deal. Gaudreau stands to eclipse the Giordano deal in term and total value, while there’s a good chance he could even best Iginla’s $7 million average salary.
Gaudreau is currently seventh in scoring in the league with 22 goals and 55 points in 55 games, and there’s no reason to believe he can’t finish somewhere in the top five when the season is over. After an impressive 24-goal, 64-point rookie season, Gaudreau is on pace to eclipse the 80-point plateau and there’s no reason to believe he’s due for a step back any time soon. With that in mind, the contract comparables for Gaudreau make it understandable why he might be inking the biggest deal in franchise history.
Because he was drafted by the Flames, he’s eligible for a maximum eight-year extension. There’s no certainty he signs for eight years, but the option is on the table. And if Gaudreau is willing to sign for the full eight seasons, there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to lock him up long-term. However, if Gaudreau does sign for eight seasons, it’s probably safe to assume the Flames are going to have to dig a bit deeper into their pockets. Gaudreau would be losing unrestricted free agent years, and those lost years of Gaudreau’s UFA eligibility may come at a steep price.
One comparable Francis makes — and it’s an apt one — is Vladimir Tarasenko. The St. Louis Blues star signed an eight-year, $60-million deal in the off-season. At 5-on-5, Tarasenko scores at a much greater rate, but when you include play in all situations, the two players are quite similar. Per 60 minutes of ice time over the past two seasons, Tarasenko has been on ice for 4.05 goals for. Gaudreau has been on for 4.08. And while Tarasenko has lit the lamp more often — he has 64 goals to Gaudreau’s 46 — the two are near even in points. Tarasenko has 122 to Gaudreau’s 118.
Where Gaudreau has differentiated himself from similar point producers, and the includes Tarasenko, is that he may be becoming one of the league’s best playmakers. In all situations, there are 12 players who have a similar goals-for per 60 minutes rate as Gaudreau and similar point totals. That list includes players such as Jason Spezza, Evgeni Malkin, Joe Pavelski and the Sedin twins. But of those 12 players, only Daniel Sedin has more primary assists (51) than Gaudreau’s 48. That’s mighty impressive.
This is to say it’s with good reason Gaudreau could become the highest paid player in Flames history. In part it will have to do with increasing salaries around the league — Iginla, if in his prime with the Flames today, would likely lay claim to the richest contract in franchise history — but the rest of it will be thanks to Gaudreau’s incredible ability. Richest deal ever or not, Gaudreau will be worth every penny.
(Advanced statistics via puckalytics.com)