NHL free agency began Wednesaday afternoon and several big names have come off the board, including future Hall-of-Famer Evgeni Malkin, who surprisingly re-signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins when it appeared the sides were ready to part ways. Malkin was arguably the second-biggest name on the market behind Calgary Flames superstar Johnny Gaudreau, who has said he will not re-sign with Calgary. SportsLine offers NHL odds on Gaudreau's next team.
The 28-year-old Gaudreau has spent his entire career in Calgary. He tallied 609 points in 602 regular-season games and has finished fourth in the NHL MVP voting in two of the past four seasons. This past season was his best, with a career-high 115 points (second in the league) and an incredible league-best plus/minus rating. He, Elias Lindholm (plus-61) and Matthew Tkachuk (plus-57) formed arguably the best line in hockey. "Johnny Hockey" also had nine game-winning goals.
Calgary reportedly offered Gaudreau about $10 million per season but it wasn't all about the money: He wants to play closer to home. Gaudreau hails from Salem, N.J., and will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Gaudreau's agent Lewis Gross confirmed as much: "The Flames did everything they could. This came down to a family decision." Gaudreau is expecting a child with his wife, Meredith Morris, in the coming months.
Thus, it's expected that Gaudreau will sign with either the Devils, Islanders or Flyers, all close to his hometown (the Rangers are not considered an option). It's going to cost at least $10 million per season to sign Gaudreau and the Devils have the cap space to do it right now, but the Islanders and Flyers currently don't (Philly has almost none) and would have to work some magic.
In the summer, teams can exceed the $82.5 million cap by 10 percent. The Flyers could also gain cap relief if defenseman Ryan Ellis ($6.25 million cap hit) ends up on the long-term injured reserve list. Entering free agency, only 14 players were making $10 million or more against the salary cap in the NHL. Gaudreau actually grew up a Flyers fan, for what it's worth – Philly is about 40 miles north of Salem.
The Athletic's Kevin Kurz tweeted this today: "Two league sources who I reached out to regarding Johnny Gaudreau both believe the Devils are the front-runners here. One specifically said he is 'pretty sure' Gaudreau doesn't end up with Flyers."
Via SportsLine oddsmakers: Which team will sign Johnny Gaudreau?
- Devils +250
- Islanders +350
- Flyers +400
- Other +500
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