Let’s state the obvious: there wasn’t a soul in the hockey world that thought Johnny Gaudreau was signing in Columbus at the start of free agency.
It wasn’t until 2:47 p.m. MDT where Columbus reporter Aaron Portzline posted that the Blue Jackets were making a major play for the former Flames winger:
And yet, just a few hours later Gaudreau put pen to paper on a seven-year, $9.75M AAV contract that would keep him in Columbus until the 2028–29 season.
All of the conversation around Gaudreau was that he was looking for three things:
- A contending organization with a chance at winning a Stanley Cup
- A high payday based on his performance over the last few seasons
- An East coast city to ensure that he was close to his family
With absolutely no disrespect to the Columbus organization or its fans, it just simply was no one’s first thought. In fact, the signing might have surprised Columbus more than anyone else.
Columbus has never been able to attract big scale NHL free agents, but that narrative can now be put to rest for a little while.
So what exactly made Columbus the best option for Gaudreau? Let’s take a look at some possible, and some conspiracy, theories that played into the decision.
Playing out of the USA
The clear determining factor in this decision was geographic proximity to his hometown of Carneys Point, New Jersey. Now clearly, there were a number of other cities and NHL franchises that were closer to Carneys Point than the Columbus Blue Jackets, such as the Philadelphia Flyers or New Jersey Devils, but I guess Columbus made the most sense?
From Carneys Point to Calgary, it is about a 37 hour drive or about a $1,000 CAD round-trip flight per person to come visit Johnny. When looking at Columbus, that drive drops to about 7.5 hours or a $450 CAD round-trip flight per person. Clearly a much more cost effective and time effective route for the family. Of course, when you’ve got someone making $10.5M a season, not sure time or cost matters too much. But now he’s on a tighter budget of $9.75M, so the discount flights will come in handy.
Additionally, there are many barriers, both physical and psychological that make traveling to Canada much harder than a casual national based flight. Definitely factors to be grateful for the Gaudreaus over the next seven years.
The sights and sounds
Now you may think Columbus is not a destination spot for most people, but according to Hotels.com, you would be wrong.
Not sure how you can turn down a city in which the number one attraction is the Ohio Statehouse. I mean, if you have the opportunity to live in a city with one of the oldest working statehouses in the USA, you have to take it.
More seriously, it is home to the LEGOLAND Discovery Center which we can all agree is a dark horse for more people. No cap, I may have to go visit Columbus for this alone.
At least Johnny can now get used to the Nationwide Arena cannon.
Now you may think that Johnny Gaudreau and Lewis Gross were the biggest players today, but I in fact think the biggest contributor to this decision was Chuck Fletcher.
After spending nearly $10M a season on Rasmus Ristolainen and Tony DeAngelo, then proceeding to buy out Oskar Lindblom to try and make room, the Flyers General Manager opted to use what little cap space left to sign Justin Braun and Nicolas Deslauriers because, well, Philly.
For a team that spent to the salary cap, and had no clear direction or vision, it was interesting to see Fletcher opt not to offload the proper amount of salary to fit in Gaudreau. Especially considering Gaudreau was probably planning his and Kevin Hayes‘ reunion party for the last 24 hours.
When the lines were clearly drawn between Philly and Gaudreau, it was almost as if Gaudreau had to pivot to his third and fourth options at the last minute.
World class hockey names
If there is one thing we can all agree about the Columbus Blue Jackets is that they have an absolutely stacked roster of world class hockey names.
Jakub Voracek, Gustav Nyquist, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Yegor Chinakhov, Emil Bemstrom, Zach Werenski, Erik Gudbranson, Vladislav Gavrikov, Adam Boqvist, Nick Blankenburg, Elvis Merzlikins, and Joonas Korpisalo are just a few that top my list.
Adding Johnny Hockey to that list makes a ton of sense. High quality and under the radar.
No wonder this team got rid of Seth Jones.
Full blown conspiracy
One of my absolute favourite takes from last night on the matter came from Cody Magnusson:
While my theories are based on pure guessing, Cody went to a whole new level. He went full Charlie Kelly/Pepe Silva on us. Maybe it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia after all.
We previously did see Jacob Trouba request a trade to the New York Rangers due to his wife preferring the location for work, so it wouldn’t be the first time this has happened in the NHL. Plus with the current nurse situation in Alberta, it’s not surprising.
But what if, in fact, this had the opposite effect? Gaudreau reportedly turned down an offer above $10M a season to play in Columbus, so what exactly turned him off of New Jersey? We know that when Hamilton was traded as a member of the Calgary Flames there were a number of reports that Hamilton didn’t fully get along with the team and its “culture”.
The museum joke was thrown around like wildfire, but what if Gaudreau was one of the players that butted heads with him the most? Pure speculation here, and more grasping at straws, but there is a big elephant in the room that remains unseen as to why Gaudreau ignored a bit of a more lucrative offer from a team far closer to home.
A head scratcher for the ages
Until Gaudreau shines a light onto his decision—and he might do just that after his press availability—this will easily be one of the weirdest free agent signings ever. Even after he makes his comments, it will still be incredibly weird.
No matter the reason, he’s a Blue Jacket for the next seven years. Good luck.
What do you think is the reason Gaudreau signed with Columbus? Are you as perplexed as us? Let us know in the comments below!