Top Trades, Landing Spots for Johnny Gaudreau

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistNovember 19, 2020

Top Trades, Landing Spots for Johnny Gaudreau

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    2020 means different things to different people.

    But as far as Johnny Gaudreau is concerned, it might be remembered as a year of rumors.

    The 2011 fourth-round pick has been a productive player for the Calgary Flames since arriving as a full-timer for the 2014–15 season, including a pair of 30-goal efforts and two more years with 20 or more.

    He scored 18 times in 70 games during the pandemic-reduced regular season, but you could hear the whispers during the run-up to the playoffs suggesting that he had arrived at training camp out of shape.

    At 27, he's still in the prime of his career and is signed for the next two seasons at $6.75 million apiece before he goes unrestricted in 2022-23. He will probably be due a raise at that point, but he will also be 29, and the Flames have another standout in the form of the 22-year-old Matthew Tkachuk.

    Tkachuk will be a restricted free agent the same year Gaudreau's contract is up, so the Flames could save themselves some down-the-road headaches and address other positions if they make a move now.

    Ever helpful when it comes to making travel plans, the B/R ice hockey team reconvened to discuss the topic and came up with a list of five possible destinations that could make sense for both sides.

    Read on to see our thoughts and let us know what you think with a comment or two.

Buffalo Sabres

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    Jeffrey T. Barnes/Associated Press

    Hey, didn't you used to be the Buffalo Sabres?

    You know, the team that's been perpetually irrelevant while racking up the league's longest playoff drought and driving in-house superstar Jack Eichel to frustration.

    Don't look now, but the Sabres are poised to make Western New York a wintertime destination.

    General manager Kevyn Adams pulled off the stunner of the early free-agency season when he lured former MVP Taylor Hall to town with a one-year, $8 million deal. Why not keep the mojo up by going all-in for another proven NHL talent who seems best served by a change of scenery.

    Neither team is exactly flush with salary-cap space, so it would take something close to a dollar-for-dollar exchange to get things done. With that in mind, we'll suggest Gaudreau and his $6.75 million salary heads to Buffalo in a swap that sends 26-year-old defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen ($5.4 million) and perhaps an additional contract or two to Alberta that will help augment a blue-line deficient Flames roster.

Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    If you're looking for ways the Columbus Blue Jackets make sense, here are a few:

    • The Blue Jackets are flush with cap space. In fact, only five teams have more than their $9,225,875.
    • They're also in need of offense, as evidenced by their tie for 27th in goals scored in 2019-20.
    • They have pieces to move, including a pair of young defensemen in Seth Jones and Zach Werenski.

    Put it all together and it may be enough to get Gaudreau to central Ohio.

    His near-point-per-game clip in the NHL (445 points in 464 games) over parts of seven seasons would provide instant street cred for the Columbus attack, and the Flames would get either a 26-year-old or a 23-year-old rearguard making in the $5 million to $6 million range to address an area of need.

    Let Flames GM Brad Treliving take his pick of the D-men and forward Gaudreau's mail to the Buckeye State.

New Jersey Devils

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    The Giants are awful. The Jets are even worse.

    That means the coast is clear for the New Jersey Devils to take over the Garden State sports scene.

    And what better way to do so than to bring home a native son.

    Now 27, Gaudreau was born in Salem, New Jersey, and was likely on his home state team's radar on draft day in 2011 before the Flames plucked him in the fourth round with the 104th overall pick.

    But given the string of postseason disappointments in Calgary and the need for a proven partner in crime for young Devils centers Jack Hughes, 19, and Nico Hischier, 21, a trip back east is plausible.

    No team has more cap space than New Jersey's $17,195,001, so the Devils could take on Gaudreau's contract with zero issue and entice Calgary with a package highlighted by 26-year-old defenseman Damon Severson, a second-round pick in 2012 who's shown a worthwhile offensive streak in the past three seasons.

    Add a prospect or a draft pick as the cherry on top and book the inbound flight to Newark.

New York Islanders

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Only seven teams scored fewer goals last season than the New York Islanders.

    And while Barry Trotz has long been able to coach his way through offensive inferiority, it would be nice to have a weapon or two for a change.

    The Islanders displayed speed and timely scoring during a surprise postseason run to the Eastern Conference Final, but there's no guarantee that the summertime magic will be replicated come winter.

    So why not go ahead and land a proven NHL scorer to prolong the momentum?

    Enter Gaudreau.

    Not only would he be returning to his big backyard—the Islanders play just two hours up the turnpike from his hometown of Salem—but he would also provide the sort of star power the team has lacked since John Tavares exited for Toronto in 2018.

    Calgary could go any number of directions in terms of a return package, but we figure it would include at least a veteran defenseman like Johnny Boychuk and a prospect along the lines of defenseman Sebastian Aho or forward Oliver Wahlstrom and/or a future draft pick.

    Aho and Wahlstrom are staying busy during the pandemic on loans to teams in Europe, which augments their experience and gives the Flames a chance to see which one they would prefer.

    As for Gaudreau, he would have the chance to build a brand on a far bigger stage than western Canada.

Philadelphia Flyers

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    Chris Szagola/Associated Press

    New Jersey's his home state. And the New York Islanders aren't far away, either.

    But to a kid who grew up cheering for the Philadelphia Flyers, there's no place like Broad Street.

    The man himself suggested a few years back that "it would be sweet to play [in Philadelphia] someday," and given the run of unmet expectations in Calgary and unscored goals for the Flyers, the time is now.

    A podcast hosted by former Flyer Scottie Upshall in October included a suggestion that Gaudreau could don the black and orange for a package including winger Jakub Voracek and defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, along with a prospect.

    Voracek has scored 20 goals in six of eight seasons with the Flyers and Gostisbehere is an offensive-leaning defenseman who would make more sense these days on Calgary's blue line than Philadelphia's.

    Meanwhile, add Gaudreau's average of 78 points per season to the Flyers' holdover offensive roster and standout young goaltender Carter Hart, and you may have a team that can play to the No. 1 seed it attained entering the Eastern Conference playoffs last season before bowing out in the second round.

    An embarrassment of riches in terms of cap space ($4,811,148) exists on the Philadelphia end, so toss in an undesirable contract or two to the package coming east, and Gritty has a prolific new soulmate.

    And Johnny Hockey has all the cheesesteaks he can eat.