Calgary Flames: Breaking Down a Fair Johnny Gaudreau Extension

After multiple years of trade speculation and some suggesting he wanted out, it appears Johnny Gaudreau was being truthful at the end of this season when he said he wanted to remain a Calgary Flame for years to come. Though in the early stages, the 27-year-old’s agent is in talks with management in regards to an extension, as his contract will expire after the 2021-22 season.

Gaudreau is heading into the final year of a six-year, $40.5 million deal that carries a cap hit of $6.75 million. This deal was viewed as very team-friendly for quite some time until an off 2019-20 season drew the ire of many Flames fans. Thankfully, he was able to bounce back with a team-leading 49 points in 2020-21, and as a result, has Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believing he is expecting a raise on his new deal.

Where He Ranks

Amongst the league, Gaudreau’s average annual value is tied for 69th with Ryan McDonagh, Ivan Provorov, Brayden Point, and teammate Mark Giordano. Aside from Point, who will undoubtedly be getting a major raise after the 2021-22 season, it is probably safe to say Gaudreau has at least as much, if not more, value than the other names listed.

Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

According to Friedman, he believes Gaudreau will want to go over the $7 million mark, so I decided to look at players slightly above that price tag. Some of the names are guys like Kris Letang, Nico Hischier, Clayton Keller, Kevin Hayes and Kyle Connor. Once again, Gaudreau is one of if not the best players of those names. Of course, there is the argument to be made that some of those players are overpaid, which is certainly valid. So, let’s look at how Gaudreau has compared in terms of numbers to other players throughout the league in recent years.

Over the last three seasons, Gaudreau has played in 208 games and scored 206 points. That has him tied with Sebastian Aho for 15th in the entire league. It also ranks him slightly ahead of players like Blake Wheeler, who has three more seasons remaining on a deal with a cap hit of $8.25 million, and John Tavares, who has four more seasons left on his deal that carries a cap hit of $11 million.

Johnny Gaudreau Calgary Flames
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Another player who is trailing Gaudreau with 189 points in 209 games is Connor, who, as mentioned above, is making a fraction over $7 million per year. Then there is Hayes, who ranks 89th in the league with 127 points in 195 games, one spot ahead of Keller, who has 126 points in 208 games over that span. In fact, even Point, who is in for a massive raise, sits just shy of Gaudreau with 204 points over the last three seasons.

The Critiques

While scoring is huge, however, there is plenty more to hockey. That is why a player like Point will receive such a big raise in a year’s time. He is a fantastic two-way player, something Gaudreau is not. The same goes for Tavares, who is an excellent two-way player himself and has a lot more control of the game, being that he plays the center ice position.

Another big reason why players get paid is their play in the postseason. Gaudreau’s playoff performances have been the main reason for criticism throughout his time as a Flame, as many don’t believe he has what it takes to get it done when the games matter the most. In 30 career playoff games, he has just eight goals and 19 points.

Dependent on Term

Personally, I believe that whether or not the Flames give him between $7 to $7.5 million annually depends on the term of the deal. While he isn’t old by any means, there is no denying that by the time many players turn 30, their best playing days are behind them. That isn’t always the case and may not be for Gaudreau, but with a cap hit like that, general manager Brad Treliving needs to be very careful.

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Recently, the Edmonton Oilers re-signed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — who is the same age as Gaudreau — to an eight-year deal. While that seems like a lot of term for a player of his age, it helped them lower his cap hit, which ended up being a team-friendly $5.125 million. However, if Friedman is correct, Gaudreau will want at least $7 million. This means the Flames will have to do everything in their power to keep the term much lower than the Nugent-Hopkins deal.

Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau
Calgary Flames Johnny Gaudreau (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

In a perfect world, they would be able to agree to terms with him on a four-year deal. This would lock him in for the final years of his 20s and not drag into his mid-30s. If they wanted to keep him even longer afterward, they could attempt to re-sign him for likely a lesser dollar figure. If they had to make it five years, they should strongly consider agreeing to that; however, anything more, and they may be wise to look at other options.

Staying Put

While those other options could include a trade, that seems very unlikely. It appears at this point as though both sides are very interested in getting an extension done, and it is likely just a matter of time. Though some Flames fans believe the team should move on, there is no denying Gaudreau’s talent level. If they decided against giving him a deal in the $7 million range annually, there would certainly be a number of other teams in a year’s time who would.

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