The Calgary Flames season is not going well, or at least as well as many had hoped. None of their players are really making an impact, aside from their rookies who have provided more life than any of the veterans have.
The biggest pain point for most fans has been the performance of winger Jonathan Huberdeau. In his first season of his eight-year, $84M extension, Huberdeau has been playing at almost an NHL replacement player level. Despite a new coach, new system, and an apparent back-to-basics, it’s been more of the same lacklustre performances from Huberdeau.
But if you thought he was having a bad season, you haven’t been paying enough attention to former flame Johnny Gaudreau’s season in Columbus.
Through eleven games, Gaudreau has one goal and four assists. Huberdeau edges him out with two goals and four assists. On Saturday night, Gaudreau was benched for the final 16:07 of the game and taken off both power play units. So things could be worse.
That’s why I’m suggesting that the Flames should trade Jonathan Huberdeau for Johnny Gaudreau. Is it pure fantasy or is there merit to this? Let’s break it down.
The justification a trade between Calgary and Columbus
Through eleven games, and taking a look back at last season, it hasn’t been a perfect fit for either player in their respective new homes. Now of course, Gaudreau had a much better season than Huberdeau did last year with 74 points in 80 games, but he hasn’t been playing at the same level as what many were expecting, including the Blue Jackets when they were surprised with his decision to sign with them.
It’s hard to make that type of determination after just one brutal game for Gaudreau, but you wonder based on where the Jackets are on their roadmap whether he’s actually the right fit. He hasn’t looked like the same player as he was in Calgary.
The Flames never wanted to lose Gaudreau—he just had a last-minute change of heart. Bringing him back to the city that drafted him would be a huge story. Even though fans booed him into eternity upon his return to Calgary, pretty sure he would get a standing ovation if he showed up back in a Flames jersey.
On the Flames’ end, despite their commitment to Huberdeau, it’s safe to say they would love to do whatever they can to get out from underneath the Huberdeau deal sooner rather than later. He also fits the same role that Gaudreau is in right now for the Blue Jackets and may be a better fit with the personnel there in a smaller market with less pressure.
A potential deal for Huberdeau and Gaudreau
Now let me be extremely clear, the chances of this deal happening are near zero. But there is always a chance. If a deal were to happen, I don’t think it has to be overly complicated.
Gaudreau has six seasons left at $9.75M, while Hubererdeau has eight left at $10.5M. Huberdeau is far more built off of salary bonuses, a total of $61.5M, compared to Gaudreau who has only $14M in bonuses. Ideally the Flames would trade Huberdeau after the yearly bonus is paid, but for the sake of a trade now, it would be more cash upfront for the Blue Jackets.
The trade protection also would throw a massive wrench into this deal, as Huberdeau has a full NMC until the end of 2028–29 and Gaudreau has a full NMC until the end of 2025–26. Both players would have to lift their clauses this to get a deal done, which would make a third broker team harder.
I think the Flames would also have to retain slightly, perhaps $1–$2M, and attach draft compensation to make the deal even slightly worth it for Columbus. A second-round pick, and perhaps more, would be the starting point.
Now the real question is this type of deal even worth it for either team? The answer is probably no. Both teams don’t want to give up on either player quite yet, but it would sure be something to marvel at.
There is a stronger likelihood at this point in time that Gaudreau bounces back better than Huberdeau does, which makes this deal questionable for the Blue Jackets. Of course, if you are a Flames fan you’re probably hoping this deal gets done.
It just may be in your dreams.
Photo by Brett Holmes/Icon Sportswire