Columbus, Ohio – One of the most memorable days in franchise history will turn out to be the moment the Blue Jackets not only got the biggest name in this year’s free agent crop, but perhaps also the moment the rest of the NHL started seeing the city from a different perspective.
Johnny Goudreau has been picking between NHL clubs, from major urban markets to hockey-obsessed Canadian cities. The highly skilled left winger, coming off a 115-point season, could have earned even more pay by staying with the only NHL club he’s ever known, Calgary Flames.
But in a move that stunned hockey fans everywhere — especially those in central Ohio — Goudreau, 28, chose the Blue Jackets for the pinnacle of his career, signing a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus on Wednesday. The deal would pay Gaudreau $9.75 million each season, which is also the maximum achieved. Gaudreau also has a no-move clause for the first four years, and then a limited no-trade clause for the last three years.
Why chose Goudreau Columbus? How did the Blue Jackets, never ahead after the second round of the playoffs, land an NHL superstar?
Gaudreau said Blue Jackets was on his list before the free agency period opened, based on his experiences at the Nationwide Arena and on conversations he had with current and former Blue Jackets, who he liked.
“I had never been to Columbus before until I got to the NHL, so when I started playing there I didn’t know what I was going for, and I was… ‘Cool! ” the athlete Over the phone late on Wednesday. “They’ve always had big fans, really in the game. I said to myself afterwards, ‘This looks like a really fun place to play.'”
“But it was more than that. I played in (the World Championships) with Zach Ferensky. I’ve known Eric Robinson for 15 to 20 years. And some of the former players, like Cam Atkinson and Dalton Prout…these guys were like, ‘You’re going to absolutely love the place.'”
Gaudreau joked that his controversial relationship with the Nationwide Arena cannon, which explodes every time he scores Blue Jackets, has already undergone a change of heart.
“This cannon scares me a little bit, and I’ve run into that cannon a few times,” said Goudreau, who will be formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday. “I used to not hear it. Now I want to hear it all the time.
“Hopefully we can get that really cool thing this season.”
This move has the potential to jump from the Blue Jackets team back to the cut-off picture at the Eastern Conference after a two-year hiatus. (Yes, GM Jarmo Kekalainen plans to sign and keep restricted free agent Patrick Lane, though $5 million in moves would be necessary to get the NHL salary cap.)
Equally important, perhaps, is what this means for the franchise from ice. After sweeping Tampa Bay in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, the Blue Jackets lost significant talent and earned a reputation – perhaps unfairly – for not being an attractive place to play.
Kekalainen started his conversation with the athlete By emphasizing the importance of Gaudreau in his vision for the club, how his presence on the ice would make the Blue Jackets a more dangerous offensive club, etc.
But it means much more than that.
“I think we can finally get rid of the bullshit that somehow this is a bad destination, a bad city, whatever,” Kekalainen said. “Because it was never right. We got a bad reputation because two people had decided all along that they weren’t going to be here long-term for various reasons, but it was never about the city or the organization.
“We just had to shut our mouths and deal with that, but every time I see a comment like that, I get a rash.”
The Blue Jackets has called agents without big names in previous seasons. Three years ago, they discussed an offer paper with Toronto forward Mitch Marner, but did not sign it. Two years ago, they held talks with veteran defenseman Alex Petrangelo before he signed with Vegas.
The initial contact with Gaudreau’s agent, Lewis Gross, was expected to take place in a similar fashion. The Blue Jackets had Gaudreau at the top of their wish list, and they extended the show shortly after the window opened on the eastern noon.
Many expected Gaudreau to sign with a club close to his family’s home in New Jersey. Philadelphia and the islands of New York and New Jersey were seen as the favorites. But by mid-afternoon, the Blue Jackets were alerted that they were often in the running.
Kekkalainen met with the media around 3pm to discuss the signing of defender Eric Gudbransson. Sometime after that gathering, conversations with Gaudreau and the Blue Jackets became serious.
“It kind of came out of nowhere,” Kekalainen said. “Like, are you serious about this?
“Everyone talks about it being one of the biggest fish in the market. We always make our list and on time we connect with the people at the top of our list, but to hear that, yes, they are one of the teams they want to come to…”
Calgary was reportedly offered eight years at $10.5 million a season, but Goudreau decided early on that he would not return to the flames. GM Chuck Fletcher told reporters that the Flyers, which had long been expected to be the destination, had not made a bid, as it would have stimulated further trades by Philadelphia.
New Jersey offered seven years and over $9 million per season Athletic Pierre Lebrun.
This move was amazing, even by free agency standards.
“This guy wanted to come here,” Kekalainen said. “When you get a player like this, of this caliber, you have to make a move and that’s basically what we did.
“Obviously he’s a superstar. It’s a must when a guy like that tells you he wants to come here.”
Goudreau said he wasn’t aware of the hockey world’s reaction to his signature. He said he hasn’t been on Twitter all day.
“It’s an outside noise to me,” Goudreau said. “I’m very excited about my place. I think it was a great decision for me and my wife and we’re almost done with the moon now. Super excited.”
Goudreau’s wife, Meredith, is a pediatric nurse. She is expecting the couple’s first child in late September.
“I hope the boys will let the new guy off work for a few hours so I can watch it in person,” Goudreau joked.
The Blue Jackets had a very large number of strikers and a large number of wings Before This signature. A week ago, Kekalainen needed to offload some strikers to make way for his young talent for a proper opportunity in the squad.
Now, he’ll need to move forward multiple times to reach the NHL’s $82.5 million salary cap. If you were expecting an $8.5 million contract for Laine, the Blue Jackets would be at least $4 million over the cap. But they will need more than that to allow for injuries as the season progresses.
“We thought about it long and hard,” Kekalainen said. “We are confident in our ability to make everything work. It does not change our position on the other at all. We will approach (negotiations with Laine) as if it were an ongoing process, but we have plans to keep them both.”
It’s someone else who has to move. Oliver Bjorkstrand? Gustav Nyquist?
The Blue Jackets haven’t had even minor max issues since the 2019 season, but it’s a small price to pay for adding a player like Gaudreau.
In 82 games last season, he scored 40 goals and 75 assists, trailing Edmonton’s Conor McDavid (123) on points. He was third in passing and led the entire NHL with a plus-64 rating.
Since becoming a regular player in 2014-15, Gaudreau has earned 608 points, trailing only McDavid (697), Patrick Kane (687), Sidney Crosby (640), Leon Draisaitl (616) and Brad Marchand (609) in that period. .
Gaudreau played mostly on the left wing, but he can play on either side of the center. The Blue Jackets team could use it with Laine or Jakub Voracek on his wing.
“It fits anywhere, and it will make everyone around it better,” Kekalainen said. “That’s how awesome he is.
“He had 115 points last year. Look at our strength playing now. See how we can push playing on the ice and now we have a guy again who can lead the play like the middle, but does it from the wing.”
The Blue Jackets organization has had few opportunities to bask in glory quite like Gaudreau’s signature created on Wednesday.
There was June 22, 2002, the day they recruited Rick Nash No. 1 overalls April 8, 2009, the first time they clinched a playoff; and April 16, 2019, the night they beat Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs.
Add another line – July 13, 2022: The day Johnny Hockey chose Columbus.
(Top photo by Johnny Goudreau: Sergey Belsky/USA Today)