Johnny Gaudreau’s decision to test free agency after a successful nine years with the Calgary Flames had the NHL world on the seat of their pants on Wednesday.
The All-Star left-winger chose the Columbus Blue Jackets over the Philadelphia Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders. He signed a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus in one of the franchise’s biggest deals since entering the NHL in 2001.
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“Johnny Gaudreau is a superstar in the National Hockey League, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him,” Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalinen said. “He is an elite player with great character that makes the players around him better.”
Gaudreau, nicknamed “Johnny Hockey,” is only 28. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Flames in 2011 and made his debut with the team during the 2013-14 season. He got more playing time during the 2014-15 season and started turning himself into one of the best players in the league.
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Last season, he played in all 82 games. He had a career-high 40 goals and his plus-minus was a league-leading 64. He earned his first All-Star selection last season as well.
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Columbus missed the playoffs for the second straight season. The team finished 37-38-7 with 81 points. This was head coach Brad Larsen’s first season behind the bench.