Johnny Gaudreau has been the Calgary Flames’ most dynamic offensive player since he arrived in town in 2014. Nobody has really come close to matching his point totals and he’s really been the one to instigate offense the past seven seasons.
Several media outlets—one in particular that will remain unnamed—have been pumping the Gaudreau trade speculation for several years now. Despite Gaudreau vehemently denying it every single time and going out of his way to praise both the city and the team, these rumours don’t seem to go away.
While I don’t support trading Gaudreau away and firmly believe that signing him to a long-term extension is one of the priorities for Brad Treliving this offseason, there is a very critical part of Gaudreau’s existing contract that may tie Treliving’s hands as early as next month.
Gaudreau’s contract details
Currently, Gaudreau is signed to the second most expensive contract on the team at $6.75M and it runs through to the end of the 2021–22 season (all contract details from CapFriendly.com). Only Matthew Tkachuk makes more at $7M while captain Mark Giordano shares the same AAV as Gaudreau. With just one year left on Gaudreau’s six-year contract, at the time the contract expires he will be entering his 29-year-old season possibly as an unrestricted free agent if left unsigned between now and then.
A key date in Gaudreau’s contract is fast approaching and it is July 28, 2021. On this day, Gaudreau will have his modified no-trade clause (NTC) kick in, which requires him to submit a list of five teams he may be traded to. This is a significant change from the 31 teams he could be traded to now, and could severely limit the ability for the Flames to garner a good return for Gaudreau in a trade.
What does this mean for the Flames?
The implications of this impending NTC are significant and are no doubt at the forefront of Treliving’s mind as we speak. Essentially, Treliving needs to know exactly where contract negotiations stand with Gaudreau in the next week or two.
If talks are going well and Treliving is confident and sure he will be able to extend Gaudreau, he can take his time and work on the extension with Lewis Gross, Gaudreau’s agent. In this scenario, the NTC shouldn’t be a huge issue going forward because Treliving won’t be trading Gaudreau.
However, if extension talks are not going well by the middle of the month, then Treliving might need to act fast to move Gaudreau in advance of free agency and his NTC kicking in. If Treliving doesn’t at least field offers for Gaudreau in this scenario where he would walk after his deal expired, Gaudreau’s five team list could severely handicap Treliving’s ability to get a good return for the skilled winger.
For example, let’s say Gaudreau selects the Edmonton Oilers, Vancouver Canucks, Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Philadelphia Flyers as the five teams he can be traded to. This would limit Treliving tremendously. He would hate to trade Gaudreau to a divisional rival, and hate it even more to trade him to the Oilers or Canucks. The Golden Knights and Lightning are tight to the cap and already powerhouses, which leaves just the Flyers.
This takes away Treliving’s leverage in a deal since he can’t negotiate with the entire league and the teams that he’s able to talk to might not even entertain his calls. Taking out potential trade partners like the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, and other teams who could put together a good package for Gaudreau could set the franchise back.
This is all of course, a worst case scenario—one that every GM in the league hopes to avoid with their star players, but it’s a situation they all prepare for. The reality of the situation is that it’s simply a part of the contract, and both parties will seek to either find mutual ground or ultimately part ways. The chances of the latter happening are slim based on the information available, but the countdown doesn’t end until the pen is put on the paper with a fresh Gaudreau signature at the end of a contract.
It’s crunch time
There are a lot of things the Flames have to tend to this offseason, but deciding what to do with Gaudreau is a critical piece of business that we may be hearing a lot more about in the coming weeks as free agency approaches. It’s crunch time, and Treliving has to figure out where Gaudreau stands with the Flames on the topic of an extension sooner rather than later.