The Philadelphia Flyers and Johnny Gaudreau, two planets seemingly set to collide. His current contract with the Calgary Flames is set to expire this summer and his 100-point pace will make him an enticing free agent, provided he gets that far. There are some cap troubles in Calgary that will make it difficult to re-sign the star forward, so could this be the summer the long-awaited union of Gaudreau and the Flyers actually happens? As tempting as signing Gaudreau is, does it make sense for the Flyers?
Gaudreau is a three-time 30 goal scorer, six-time 60+ point scorer, and two-time 99-point scorer. Production like that rarely become available on the free agent market in this day and age. Given the Flyers are second last in the NHL in goals per game with a measly 2.59, finding someone who is regularly over a point-per-game pace is fairly important on the offseason to do list.
Spark for the rest of the team
Not only is Gaudreau a firecracker himself, but with 60 assists so far, he clearly is a good teammate as well. That’s the kind of spark that could carry a line. Imagine him on a line with an up-and-coming goalscorer like Joel Farabee. They get a new star that can elevate those around him, the way hockey is supposed to work.
Especially with Claude Giroux out of the picture, the Flyers desperately need a beloved babyface to take his place. A good guy loved by all corners of the fanbase, and who better than the South Jersey native to carry that banner?
Despite the fact that he still looks like a teenager, Gaudreau will turn 29 in August. It’s another older body on a team already featuring many aging players. Hayes is about to turn 30, Laughton turns 28 in May, Couturier turns 30 in December, Atkinson is 32, and Ellis is 31. Building a roster of players hovering around 30 typically isn’t a key to longterm success in the modern day NHL.
The cap hit
Gaudreau is a star and when he hits the open market, he’ll certainly get paid like one. He’s coming off a six-year, $40.5 million ($6.75 aav) deal, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he signs in the $9 million range. Maneuvering the cap isn’t impossible, but dedicating $9+ million to one position hamstrings them the rest of the summer for other additions when there’s a laundry list of other things to address.
Would he have the same success here?
While gauging social media’s interest in Gaudreau, one of the most popular rebuttals was “we do you expect him to replicate that same success here?” It’s a valid question, even if slightly exaggerated. It’s not the Flyers don’t have any offensive talent, they just don’t have enough of it. Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson, Sean Couturier and whoever else the Flyers would add during the summer should provide at least a semi-respectable supporting cast, but probably not the same pure talent he’s lining up with in Calgary.
If Gaudreau makes it to free agency, there’s no doubt the Flyers will be sniffing around. Whether the interest in mutual or a deal gets reached is the big question. Simply put, the Flyers need serious offensive help and Gaudreau is a serious offensive player. Yes, he’s getting older, yes it’ll cost a pretty penny, but it’s not like star power will come cheap no matter where you get it from.
Yes, the Flyers desperately need a top center, and Gaudreau is not that, but the need for a superstar forward may be a bigger overall need. Plus, ya know, they can always make multiple moves.
Whether or not he can keep this kind of production up is a fair question, but given his style of play, it’s very possible he will. He’s not a big dude, he’s not a center, he’s not tasked with eating hard defensive minutes, he’s deployed as a top scorer in favorable offensive minutes and on the powerplay. That formula shouldn’t be hard to replicate.
Johnny Gaudreau would undoubtedly be the biggest acquisition the Flyers have made in many, many years. The hometown ties would give him an edge with the fans and the offense that follows him can be the game changing spark the team needs. The money won’t be pretty and the age is worrying, but the Flyers are at a level of desperation that they really don’t get to pick and choose which stars to add to salvage the team.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com