With a defeat in the second round of the playoffs courtesy of the Edmonton Oilers, the Calgary Flames have lost their chance at hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2022. And worse yet, they may also be losing an integral member of their team. Johnny Gaudreau, the Flames’ star left winger, is at the end of his current contract and is set to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2021-22 NHL season.
Gaudreau, 28, is expected to become one of the NHL’s top free agents should he end up departing the team that drafted him in 2011. But knowing full well what kind of player Gaudreau is, the good people of Calgary seem to be making their best effort to keep him around — as evidenced by the actions of Gaudreau’s neighbors this past winter.
“My next-door neighbors, I’m pretty sure they were shoveling my snow all year just to get me back,” Gaudreau said. “Go to Starbucks, go out to eat, everyone is so welcoming and really wants me back here. It’s great — it’s what you want to hear. It’s what you want people think of you, and they want you on your team.
“It’s a little overwhelming at times, but it’s great to hear. I love it, and it’s just nice to hear everyone wants me back. So it’s great.”
Coming off a career-best season, Gaudreau is set to be highly coveted on the open market, and Calgary knows this well. According to Wes Gilbertson of the Toronto Sun, Flames general manager Brad Treliving promised to “move heaven and earth” in order to ensure Gaudreau’s return.
However, Gaudreau’s contract situation remains unresolved.
“We tried to figure something out in the beginning of the year, it didn’t happen, and right from Day 1 in training camp, I said, ‘You know, let’s just focus on hockey. I don’t want to be talking to my agent every day,’ ” Gaudreau said recently. “I just wanted to focus on this team and then help this team win games, and I think it’s really helped me this year.”
That mindset clearly helped in 2021-22, as Gaudreau played all 82 games and set career highs in points (115), goals (40) and assists (75). He also had a plus-minus of +64, the best of any NHL skater since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-1987.