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Johnny Gaudreau: 3 best destinations in 2022 NHL free agency

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames, Johnny Gaudreau free agency destinations, Islanders, Predators

The Calgary Flames had a disappointing showing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a strong 2021-22 NHL regular season. Now, Calgary has some key decisions to make this offseason, highlighted by Johnny Gaudreau’s contract situation. Gaudreau is set to hit unrestricted free agency this offseason, and while the two sides are reportedly motivated to get a deal done, there’s a real chance that Gaudreau winds up hitting the open market.

Last year for the Flames, Gaudreau broke out and enjoyed his best NHL season to date. The 28-year-old put up career-highs across the board offensively, racking up 115 points which was good for second in the entire league, trailing only Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid. Gaudreau scored 40 goals and provided 75 assists in a prolific campaign for the Flames. He and linemate Matthew Tkachuk were one of two duos across the league to record 100+ points each, joining McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Gaudreau is sure to command a massive contract in free agency, so the chance always remains that the Flames are unwilling to pay up. Based on his 2021-22 season, Gaudreau reasonably figures to make around $11-12 million on his next deal, which may be too much for Calgary to stomach considering they also have to tend to restricted free agents in Tkachuk and Andrew Mangiapane, as well as other UFA’s like Brett Ritchie and Calle Jarnkrok.

Gaudreau will be one of the hottest commodities on the open market this offseason, and if the Flames don’t lock him down quickly, various teams should be interested in the 28-year-old. The Flames will definitely be at the forefront of his market, but these free-agency destinations also make a ton of sense for Johnny Gaudreau in the 2022 NHL offseason.

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3. Nashville Predators
It’s widely expected that Filip Forsberg’s tenure in Nashville has come to an end. The writing is on the wall for Forsberg’s exit in the offseason, with the mustachioed forward set to hit free agency. Like Gaudreau, Forsberg is expected to command a big contract in the offseason and he may end up walking in free agency.
If the Predators manage to re-sign Forsberg, it wouldn’t make sense for them to also pursue Gaudreau. However, if Forsberg gets lured away to another team, Nashville could turn its sights on Gaudreau. The Predators have no intention of entering a rebuild, and with $22 million in cap space this offseason, they’d be able to afford a Gaudreau deal. GM David Poile made clear that he wants to continue fighting for the playoffs going forward, so if they lose out on Forsberg, there’s reason to believe the Preds would remain active in the market and turn to Gaudreau as a replacement. 1
2. New York Islanders
The Islanders would be a very interesting fit for Gaudreau. The team is entering a new chapter after parting ways with Barry Trotz and hiring Lane Lambert in the offseason. After the coaching change, the Islanders could look to make a big splash in free agency and grab one of the top players on the market.
The Islanders desperately need a buff in the attacking zone, having struggled to put goals away in 2021-22. New York’s 231 goals last year were the second-fewest in the Metro Division, ahead of only the Philadelphia Flyers. Gaudreau would be an instant solution to their attacking woes, as he’s coming of a prolific 115-point season. With the Islanders already boasting a formidable defense, adding Gaudreau in the offseason could help bring the team back to the playoffs.
Gaudreau, a Salem, New Jersey native, could also be interested in a homecoming in the offseason, which further strengthens the ties to the Islanders. Coming back to New York/New Jersey after nine seasons in Calgary could be enticing for the star free agent.
1. Calgary Flames
While many teams will be hoping to poach Gaudreau in free agency, the Flames seem the most likely landing spot for the 28-year-old. Gaudreau has played his entire career with the Flames, spending his first nine NHL seasons in Calgary. After a disappointing playoff exit last year, it stands to reason that he’d be determined to run it back with the Flames and make a run for the Stanley Cup.
Gaudreau will be due for a major salary hike. His expiring contract saw him make an average annual value of $6.75 million, and he could realistically make almost double that on his new deal. The Flames should not balk at extending him, however, as he was a critical part of their success last year. Calgary simply will not find 115-point production on the open market, nor will they be able to replace Gaudreau with someone who fits so seamlessly with the rest of their key attackers.
Moving on from Gaudreau would effectively signal that Calgary is going to retool or rebuild for a few years. But after winning the Pacific Division via a 111-point regular season, it seems illogical for the Flames not to bring him back.