The darkest timeline for the Calgary Flames has unfortunately come true. Earlier this evening, after weeks of speculation and hours of nervous Twitter refreshing, Elliotte Friedman broke the news that Johnny Gaudreau would be testing free agency:
Just a few seconds later, the second gut punch hit when all hope was lost when Frank Seravalli confirmed that it would not just be testing the market, but the Flames star winger had informed the team that he would not be returning:
After eight amazing seasons—and one lone game at the end of the 2014 season—Gaudreau’s time with the organization is over. In what feels like one of the darkest moments in the history of the organization, the Flames are now left to pick up the pieces after one of the most promising seasons in franchise history.
General Manager Brad Treliving met with the media earlier this evening to discuss Gaudreau’s decision and the outlook for the team moving forward. Here is a summarized version of what the had to say:
We were informed this evening after a lengthy discussion and negotiation that Johnny Gaudreau was going to be entering the free agent market. It’s a disappointing day to say the very least. I sat before you at the end of the season and said we would move heaven and earth to resign John and we assure Flames fan we did that.
It’s a difficult time, but it’s part of the business to move on. We did everything possible to keep John here. I don’t want to speak for John, and don’t want to speak for John, but I believe this was a family decision and I respect that for him. We have nothing but respect for John as a player and person.
In response to how the Flames replace Johnny:
We are not going out to sign a player to replace John. We will look at it from an organization and management team. The wrong move is to have a knee jerk reaction and make the wrong move to replace John.
Regarding the option to trade his rights:
No that wasn’t an option.
In response to whether or not the Flames and Gaudreau were close?
I felt like there was a deal there to make. At the end of the day, we wouldn’t have gone through the process and everyone had good intentions. At the end of the day, the final decision was made and John has every right. This was not a dollars decision. There was nothing that could have been done.
In regards to Gaudreau potentially circling back tomorrow after free agency opens:
I don’t anticipate that.
In regards to the conversation between Johnny Gaudreau’s and Brad:
Very appreciative to the organization, the fans, how he was treated, his teammates. We develop relationships with these players and it was hard…it was a hard decision for him and he ultimately chose what was best for him and his family.
When asked about whether he was taken aback:
I was disappointed. You got a top player that is not going to come back. I wouldn’t say taken aback is the right word, thoroughly disappointed and you can’t not be.
Finally, when asked how can he make the team better after losing Johnny:
You have to move forward here. If you are sitting here tomorrow thinking you are fixing all of your issues, that’s not the way to do it. You have to take some time and think about things and be smart with your decisions.
After the press conference was over, another conformational dagger came through via Elliotte Friedman:
This truly was a family decision for Gaudreau as he looks to move closer to home as he starts his new family.
Where will that be? We will find out shortly.
The New Jersey Devils have the cap space, and the talent on the team, to entice the winger for many years to come. The option of playing alongside either Jack Hughes or Nico Hischier over the next seven seasons is easily the best option. Long term, this would be the smartest decision.
The Philadelphia Flyers are the easiest team to root against given some of their offseason moves so far. The Flyers are going to use what little draft capital they have to offload another key player to make room for Gaudreau. This is his hometown team though, and one of his best friends Kevin Hayes plays there currently, so it makes a lot of sense. This is the most scorched earth option.
Or is it the likes of the New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Carolina Hurricanes that manage to entice Gaudreau? Tomorrow should be interesting.
For now, the Flames are left scrambling to figure out just what exactly Plan B is. All we know is this is a terrible time for the franchise and its fans as the organization lost yet another star for absolutely nothing.