Calgary Flames

Projecting Johnny Gaudreau’s next contract with the Calgary Flames

Though it is has come at a a much earlier time than Calgary Flames fans hoped, Johnny Gaudreau is in need of a new contract. Gaudreau is approaching UFA status this summer, and he can hit the open market if he decides to do so. Gaudreau has cemented himself as an offensive force and star for not only the Flames, but for the whole league. He is not only one of the best left wingers in the league, but he is one of the best players in the league in general.

Once July 13 hits, free agency officially begins in the NHL, and I am sure that the Flames would like to have a deal signed before then. Both the Flames and Gaudreau have stated all year that they want to reach a contract agreement, but what would that contract look like?

Gaudreau’s 2021–22 performance

Johnny Gaudreau had played the best hockey of his career during the 2021–22 season. The superstar improved his offence, defence, play away from the puck, and had a career-defining moment when he scored the Game 7 overtime goal against the Dallas Stars in Round 1. He shattered his career-highs and had a spectacular season.

Games PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsEven Strength PointsPlus-Minus

Gaudreau’s previous career-high for goals was 36, which he reached in 2018–19. That same season, he set a career-high in points at 99. This season, he shattered both marks. Where Gaudreau really showcased his skills was at even strength by producing at over a point per game pace all season. Yes, Gaudreau averaged 1.10 points per game at even strength alone. Gaudreau is the first player to put up this level of production at even strength since Flames legend Jaromir Jagr put up 95 even strength points in the 1995–96 season. Gaudreau was roughly two years old since this occurred.

Though plus-minus has its flaws, Gaudreau’s plus-minus is worth noting. Gaudreau recorded the highest plus-minus since Wayne Gretzky logged a very nice +69 in the 1986–87 season. Gaudreau’s season was not only spectacular, but it was historic.

The knock on Gaudreau by some was that he does not perform in the playoffs. This season however, he proved all the doubters wrong. Although the Flames lost in the second round, he managed to average more than a point per game during the Flames playoff run.

Games PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsEven Strength PointsPlus-Minus

From the day Gaudreau signed his entry-level contract (ELC) until this year’s second round exit, he has improved practically every area of his game. He has become the Flames most important player, and as a result, he will be due for a big pay raise from his $6.75M contract. Rightfully so.

Gaudreau’s career performance so far

Gaudreau has played through the entirety of two contracts so far in his career. His ELC saw him producing at outstanding levels immediately, and he kept that up throughout the course of his first extension.

Entry-level contract

Gaudreau played two seasons (and one game in 2013) while he was signed to his ELC worth $925,000 a season back in 2013. Below are the numbers he put up.

SeasonGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsEven Strength PointsPlus-Minus
Johnny Gaudreau’s Production from 2013-2016

Gaudreau showed steady growth in his game as a young star in Calgary’s forward group, and practically reached point-per-game status in 2015–16.

Six-year extension

In the summer of 2016, Brad Treliving signed Johnny Gaudreau to a six-year contract extension with a cap hit of $6.75M. Looking at the numbers he put up below, it is safe to say that Gaudreau provided lots of value with this contract.

SeasonGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPointsEven Strength PointsPlus-Minus
Johnny Gaudreau’s Production from 2016-2022

With this level of production, Gaudreau’s contract looked like a sweetheart deal for the Flames. During these six years, Gaudreau averaged 1.05 points per game, and solidified himself as a career point-per-game player. And sure, Gaudreau’s 2021–22 season boosts that point per game rate, but it would be unfair to call that season an outlier. Even if we take the point-per-game pace for each season and exclude 2021–22, he would still have a 0.98 point-per-game average, putting him at an average of 80 points in a season.

Ever since Gaudreau played his first full season in 2014–15, he has the sixth highest point totals in the league at 608 points. That is higher than names like Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, and Claude Giroux, who all have a similar number of games played.

He also is also ranked third in assists with 399, which is higher than names like Sidney Crosby (albeit Crosby has played 41 fewer games), Anze Kopitar, and Blake Wheeler. Gaudreau ranks 13th in points per game among players who have played at least 350 games, with 1.01 points per game. This ranks him higher than Mikko Rantanen, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Aleksander Barkov. Lastly, he is third in the league in even strength points with 437.

Gaudreau is a bona fide super star in the league, and he has been for the duration of his career.

Comparable contracts

The most accurate comparable for Johnny Gaudreau’s next contract would be Artemi Panarin‘s in my mind. Panarin’s prior contract was a two-year, $6M AAV deal, and during the contract he put up 169 points in 160 games. This led him to reach UFA status and sign a seven-year deal with a cap hit of $11.6M, making him have the second highest AAV in the league. Currently, Johnny Gaudreau is 28 as he approaches UFA status, Panarin was 27.

PlayerGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPoints
Artemi Panarin508187382569
Johnny Gaudreau602210399609
Gaudreau & Panarin’s Career Numbers

Now, this isn’t to say that Gaudreau is just as good as Panarin or that they are the exact same player—because that is not the case. But what is true and showcased in the numbers is that Gaudreau is far closer to Panarin’s level than most people may realize. Panarin has just showed his level of production more consistently, and it has reflected in his contract. Panarin has put up a higher point per game pace throughout his career, producing at a 1.12 point per game pace compared to Gaudreau’s 1.01.

Do I think Gaudreau is going to get Panarin type money and have the second highest AAV in the league? No, I don’t. However, I do believe that at Gaudreau’s peak, he is just as good as Panarin, and arguable better. His play should make him have one of the top 10 highest contracts in the league if he is going to take market value.

Gaudreau’s camp might decide to start with a Panarin type AAV during negotiations with the Flames, but I think it will end up being lower.

What will Gaudreau’s next contract look like

Well, if the Flames re-sign Gaudreau, the term has already been decided. The main advantage the the Flames have is that they can offer Gaudreau an eighth year, whereas other teams can not. I don’t think this will be an Auston Matthews type of extension where he signs a contract around a five-year term. That situation is very different from Gaudreau’s. This contract may very well decide where he will retire.

If Panarin secured an $11.6M contract, I believe that Gaudreau would get something around $10.5M for an eight-year term. A contract like that would put him around the mid-to-low top 10 for largest contracts in the league, and I believe that is market value. If other teams are offering contracts to Gaudreau, they will have to really increase their AAV, up to about roughly $12M in order to match the total contract dollar amount for a seven-year term. Seeing as McDavid’s contract is $12.5M per year, I can’t see other teams being willing to go that high at all.

Nobody knows how negotiations will go, but based off Gaudreau’s comments ever since last off season, he seems extremely interested in staying in Calgary. His family also loves the city, and has stated that the city feels like another home for them. The Flames seem equally as interested, as Treliving stated that he would “move heaven and earth” to get him re-signed.

I believe all the parties, and I ultimately think they get a deal done in Calgary. I also believe that no matter what, Gaudreau is going to get market value for his contract. Don’t expect a hometown discount type of deal, as that was basically what his prior contract was.

Evolving-Hockey does yearly contract projections, and overall their projections have been fairly accurate over the years. For Gaudreau’s next contract, they have predicted that he gets a seven-year deal worth $10.8M. I don’t think seven years will happen as discussed above, but the AAV seems pretty on par with what we are projecting.

If Gaudreau does sign a contract with the Flames at around $10.5M, that would make him the highest paid Flame ever. On top of that, the salary cap for the 2022–23 season is going to be $82.5M, which means Gaudreau’s contract would take up 12.7% of the team’s salary cap. If this is the case, the team will continue to build around Gaudreau, something they have been for quite some time now.

A contract as such would also leave the Flames with $16.425M in cap space to allocate to Matthew Tkachuk, Andrew Mangiapane, Oliver Kylington, and other free agents. It is more than likely that the Flames will need to clear cap space to get all this done, but the task is not impossible by any means.

The Flames offseason plan starts with Johnny Gaudreau and whether he re-signs.

Signing Gaudreau is good for the franchise

Johnny Gaudreau has been the most important player to this franchise since Jarome Iginla. The franchise has made the playoffs five times with Gaudreau on the roster, won the Pacific division twice, won two playoff series, and he is already a top-five scorer in Flames franchise history.

The Flames must know that signing Gaudreau is not only good for the success of the team on the ice, but is is good for the success for the franchise off the ice when it comes to bringing in money. Especially if the Flames want to have a new arena, it would be much easier to commit to such a large project if there is a superstar on the ice that will attract fans to come to the game.

Only time will tell whether Gaudreau stays in Calgary, but one thing is for certain. Gaudreau is going to get paid, and if he re-signs in Calgary, he will solidify his status as one of the best Flames of all time.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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