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Johnny Gaudreau will test free agency.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman has reported that the Calgary Flames' star winger will explore his options on the open market when the window opens Wednesday.
Hearing that Johnny Gaudreau has decided to test free agency.
— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 13, 2022
The decision likely means that Gaudreau will be leaving the Flames given that he will have squandered the chance to sign a maximum-term contract by the time he officially reaches unrestricted status at noon on July 13.
It's believed that the Flames upped the ante in their efforts to retain the 40-goal, 115-point scorer from one season ago in the last few days, tabling an offer worth in excess of $80 million over an eight-season maximum term. It's possible that Gaudreau finds a contract offer worth in the neighbourhood of $80 million on the open market, but it's more likely that he will have left money on the table with this decision.
That said, Gaudreau's willingness to turn down the offer from the reigning Pacific Division champions isn't necessarily a surprise.
Whispers of Gaudreau preferring a move to the east coast have followed him throughout his eight seasons with the Flames, and he's earned the opportunity, now, to choose where he wants to play.
It's expected that the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers will be in the running for his services. The expectation should be that Gaudreau winds up competing inside the Metropolitan Division.
Gaudreau's presumed departure leaves a massive hole at the top of the Flames' depth chart. He performed at a level that warranted Hart Trophy consideration last season, anchoring one of the single-most productive lines in hockey for head coach Darryl Sutter.
Calgary could choose to spend the money allocated for Gaudreau to bring in another impact forward, or could see his departure serve as launch point into a rebuild.
Either way, Gaudreau is set to seriously disrupt the market, changing the fortunes for both the Flames and the team that wins his services.
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