Calgary Flames

Ryan Leslie suggests Johnny Gaudreau’s days in Calgary could be numbered

As we get closer to free agency officially opening on July 13, the Calgary Flames will be occupied by one priority that takes front and centre: The status of their MVP contender and best player Johnny Gaudreau. Very rarely do players the calibre of Gaudreau enter the free agency period unsigned, however as the days pass the more and more likely that scenario is becoming.

Everything has been relatively quiet on the Gaudreau front thus far, with no one in the media offering any absolute on the status of the Flames star player. More often than not, the general consensus is everything is still on the table.

Well things may have just taken a massive turn after an interview with Sportsnet’s Ryan Leslie went up this week. Based on what he had to say, Flames fans may want to sit down. Let’s take a look.

The interview

Ryan Leslie went on The Rod Pederson Show recently to discuss the state of the Gaudreau situation and where things stand with both the player and the team as we near free agency. You can listen to the whole segment below.

For most of the interview Leslie regurgitates what we’ve already heard from other reporters. To summarize, the Flames have made a substantial contract offer to Gaudreau and have had it on the table dating back to last month when their season ended.

“The Flames have made a very good pitch, a very good pitch. Will it be enough to compensate those others things?”

Ryan Leslie on The Rod Pederson Show

The exact numbers are reported to be around $9.5 million a year for the max eight years with room to go even further. Overall it presents a value of $76 million. For another team to match that number over seven years they’d need to offer around $10.85 million a year. In other words the Flames can beat any offer another team presents financially if needed due to having an extra year available to them.

Those “other things” Leslie is referring to are of course Gaudreau’s family and desire to play on the East coast. It’s been said about him since the day he came to Calgary. With just eight days until he can leave for an East coast team it remains to be seen if the Flames having the leverage when it comes to money and term can outweigh Gaudreau’s desire to return home.

Unfortunately it has yet to convince Gaudreau to stick around. As of right now he’s still not made a decision and has reportedly not informed the team of what he plans to do or even submitted a counter offer. For the Flames it’s essentially a waiting game right now.

Just when everything seemed par for the course, Leslie dropped a bomb at the end of the interview, offering the most absolute and clear prediction for the situation from the media to date.

“I don’t know how this is gonna shake down… I have a feeling that this might be it.”

Ryan Leslie on The Rod Pederson Show

Way to take a dagger right to the heart of the Flames fan base, Ryan. As mentioned, this is the very first time we’ve heard any well known member of the media make a claim this bold about the situation and predict what they believe will happen.

Now of course only Gaudreau, his family, and his agent truly know what he wants to do right now. However Leslie is one of the closest members of the media to the Flames and their operations, so what he says has some serious weight and meaning behind it. In other words, if he’s feeling that Gaudreau is on his way out, there’s a nontrivial chance he is.

Home over money and legacy?

If what Leslie says is true and Gaudreau truly is leaning towards leaving the Flames in order to play and live closer to his family, it would certainly be a curious decision. The fact is we know that the Flames have made a substantial offer to Gaudreau, and one that can essentially not be matched by any other team when it comes to overall dollars and term.

If Gaudreau is willing to turn that down just to play closer to home, it would be one of the strangest decisions in NHL free agency history for two reasons. On one hand as mentioned, he’d be turning down more money and more term to leave. It’s usually the opposite in free agency, as players typically go to market to collect the biggest pay cheque they can and cash in. Gaudreau wouldn’t be doing that by leaving assuming no team offers him an absurd $11 million plus deal.

Secondly, if Gaudreau were to return home he’d be leaving a playoff lock and potential cup contender in the Flames to sign for a bottom feeder rebuilding team like the Flyers or Devils. Both teams finished bottom five in the NHL last season and both teams are at least a couple years away from making the playoffs even with Gaudreau in the fold.

Gaudreau is 28 years old. Going to a team in the middle of a rebuild who is years away from even competing for the playoffs is essentially signing away your prime years. Is just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Tick tock

Time is very quickly running out for Gaudreau to make a decision on the Flames offer. By all reports they’ve offered him more than fair value on a max term contract. There really isn’t much else the Flames can do at this point other than wait. They’ve done everything they can.

It’s up to Gaudreau if he wants to take money and legacy, or living close to home. Sooner or later he’ll have to make a decision. What he decides will forever change the history of the Flames franchise.

Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire

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