Johnny Gaudreau Should Be Flyers' Priority in NHL Free Agency Amid JVR Trade Rumors

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2022

CALGARY, AB - MAY 26: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Edmonton Oilers during Game Five of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 26, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The Oilers defeated the Flames 5-4 in overtime to win the series four games to one. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
Derek Leung/Getty Images

The 2022 edition of NHL free agency officially opened at 12 p.m. ET on Wednesday. While the initial flurry of early signings has yet to really ramp up, notable names like All-Star wing Johnny Gaudreau are unlikely to rest on the open market for long.

One of the few true stars available in 2022 free agency, Gaudreau racked up 115 points (40 goals and 75 assists) while playing all 82 games with the Calgary Flames last season.

Gaudreau informed the Flames on Tuesday night that he would not be re-signing with the club, according to Jordan Hall of NBC Sports.

According to Frank Seravalli of the Daily Faceoff, Gaudreau's decision wasn't purely about money.

Frank Seravalli @frank_seravalli

Johnny Gaudreau informed the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Flames?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Flames</a> he will not be returning to Calgary. Emotional conversation for both sides, as the Flames rolled out the red carpet to keep him.<br><br>A massive offer was presented, as we reported, but this wasn't about money.

This meshes with a statement from Flames general manager Brad Treliving.

"It is my strong belief that this was a family decision and I respect that fully," Treliving told reporters.

With Gaudreau available, at least for now, the Philadelphia Flyers should be all-in on adding him. Philly—which is coming off of back-to-back postseason-less campaigns—could desperately use a player of Gaudreau's caliber. The Flyers also appear to be near the top of the South Jersey-born star's wish list.

According to ESPN's Emily Kaplan, Philadelphia is Gaudreau's "top choice," though adding him will require some financial finagling. The Flyers, it should be noted, have just $3.4 million in cap space.

Gaudreau could land a contract north of $7 million annually. Fellow center Claude Giroux signed with the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday on a deal worth $6.5 million annually.

Pierre LeBrun @PierreVLeBrun

Claude Giroux of Hearst, Ontario, agrees to a three-year deal with the Ottawa Senators. $6.5 M AAV per season.<a href="https://twitter.com/TSNHockey?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TSNHockey</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/TheAthletic?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheAthletic</a>

This is where rumors of a James van Riemsdyk trade come into play. According to Kaplan, the Flyers have been trying to move JVR's contract, which carries a 2022-23 cap hit of $7 million. Getting a team to take on the 33-year-old isn't going to be an easy process.

According to Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports and NHL Network, teams are seeking notable draft capital to take on Van Riemsdyk:

Renaud Lavoie @renlavoietva

Flyers are trying to trade JVR. Some teams are interested but are asking Philly to give a high pick with JVR. I don’t believe it makes sense for the Flyers.

While giving up a high draft pick may be tough to swallow, trading JVR is a move the Flyers may have to make to financially move on Gaudreau. If they don't, they could lose him to the rival New Jersey Devils.

According to The Athletic's Kevin Kurtz, some view the Devils as the front-runners for Gaudreau's services:

Kevin Kurz @KKurzNHL

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.

Now is the time for Philadelphia to clear as much cap space as possible and make a hard run at Gaudreau. He is a six-time All-Star, is in his prime at only 28 years old, and has interest in joining the rebuilding Flyers. However, he isn't simply going to idle as Philadelphia ponders its next move.

Things always move quickly at the onset of NHL free agency.