Blue Jackets Stun the Hockey World, Sign Gaudreau

The Columbus Blue Jackets, coming off of a mediocre 2021-22 season (37-38-7 record, fifth in the Metropolitan Division and out of the National Hockey League (NHL) Stanley Cup playoffs for the second consecutive season), have signed former Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau, the most sought-after player in this off-season’s free agent market, to a reported seven-year deal worth $68.25 million (annual average value (AAV) of $9.75 million).

Gaudreau is coming off of a career season, with 40 goals and 75 assists – 115 points, total and piloted the Flames to the Stanley Cup playoffs with 14 points in 12 playoff games. Here’s the scouting analysis of Gaudreau from sportsforecaster.com:

– The small but sturdy forward has tremendous offensive skills, especially when it comes to his playmaking. Is an excellent skater with plenty of creativity who sees the play a couple of moves ahead of most players. Superb at getting the puck to open teammates, he is especially effective on the power play and also knows how to finish. His 200-foot game has improved by leaps and bounds, making him even more valuable.

– Overall Analysis: Elite scoring winger.

In several teams’ attempts to obtain the coveted winger, the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers figured to be among the teams in the hunt for his services, but, contrary to the belief that the New Jersey native would prefer to play closer to where he grew up, versus playing in Calgary, Alberta, Gaudreau’s suitors were hardly relegated to some of the local clubs that he grew up around. It is believed that Blue Jackets General Manager, the always aggressive but rational Jarmo Kekalainen, entered the Gaudreau fray later in the day, not long after Philadelphia Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher commented that his team was no longer in pursuit of Gaudreau, due to their usually tight salary cap situation.

In Gaudreau, the Blue Jackets obtain a player with the offensive skill set of former Blue Jackets winger Artemi Panarin, currently with the New York Rangers. Given their struggles to generate offense, particularly on the power play, Gaudreau is a very smooth skater in his team’s offensive zone and a flair for the dramatic when carrying the puck.

Personally, it’s possible that the Blue Jackets sought Gaudreau as a potential hedge should they be unable to re-sign Left Winger Patrik Laine to a long-term contract. However, it’s possible that Kekalainen is confident in also re-signing Laine and expressing that confidence could have been the key in nabbing the coveted Gaudreau.

Gaudreau’s willingness to take on less money – as Calgary was prepared to go eight years and with a higher salary – to play for the Blue Jackets, a team with just one playoff series victory, provided assurance for Gaudreau in the direction that they’re going, with several young, talented NHL players – Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinkarov, Alexandre Texier, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Jack Roslovic, Laine and Kent Johnson, so perhaps, particularly being on the same roster with a sniper like Laine allowed Gaudreau to foresee the upside of the Blue Jackets organization.

No matter the reason, today is a great day to be a Columbus Blue Jackets fan, and now the Metropolitan Division race became a whole lot more interesting.