Coming off a 111-point season, the Flames looked poised to enter next season as a Stanley Cup contender. But the fire seems to be fading away before it could truly ignite.
During the 2021-22 season, the Flames boasted, arguably, the best line in the NHL. Elias Lindholm centered Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk and together, they tore up the league with all three players scoring at least 40 goals.
Gaudreau led the team with a career-high, 115-point season. Tkachuk wasn’t far behind, scoring 104 points, also a career-high. There was no doubt, that heading into the offseason, both Gaudreau and Tkachuk were going to receive their big paydays.
Flames’ GM Brad Treliving was tasked with making sure those big checks are signed by the Calgary Flames organization. However, things haven’t gone as planned for Calgary. Not long into the offseason, and team is on the cusp of losing two-thirds of that dominant first line.
In one of the biggest surprises of the offseason so far, Johnny Gaudreau signed a seven-year $68.25 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets, with an AAV of $9.75 million per year.
The signing came as such a big surprise for a number of reasons. First, Columbus wasn’t seen as a potential destination for Gaudreau. Most reports had the Flames, Flyers, and Devils as the top three teams in the Gaudreau sweepstakes. The Devil and Flames each made eight-year offers to Gaudreau, with reports saying the Flames offered an AAV of over $10 million.
For Columbus, landing a super-star like Gaudreau is exactly what the franchise needed. Ever since the departures of Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Matt Duchene in the 2019 offseason, Columbus has carried the stigma of being unable to keep their star players around for very long.
The signing has shown Columbus has the ability to keep up with other markets like New York, and Tampa Bay when it comes to signing star free agents.
For Calgary fans, losing Gaudreau has been a tough pill to swallow, but things have gone from bad to worse in Calgary.
Less than a week after Gaudreau’s departure, news would break that the Flames were facing difficulties with Tkachuk’s contract negotiations. On July 18, the Flames announced the decision to file for salary arbitration with Tkachuk. The Flames wanted to continue to negotiate with Tkachuk without the risk of an offer sheet.
Just days later, it was announced Tkachuk will not be signing with Calgary and that a trade could happen soon. As of now the Blues, Stars, Predators, Panthers, and Golden Knights are the teams Tkachuk is most interested in signing a long-term deal with.
Like Gaudreau, losing Tkachuk would leave a hole in the line-up that could take a long time to fill. While a trade would bring in good assets for Calgary, this doesn’t mean they’ll receive a player capable of scoring over 40 goals, and notching over 100 points.
Losing two players that scored over 100 points is debilitating to any team, especially when the loss comes in one offseason. However, the Flames still have impressive depth players and a Vezina caliber goalie in Jakob Markstrom. If the Flames are able to acquire a solid first line player, the team may not regress as much as some people may think.
Despite any sort of silver-lining the Flames already lost Johnny Gaudreau. Now they’re an enticing trade offer away from losing Matthew Tkachuk. Watching two franchise cornerstones leave in such a short span is far and away from a simple recovery.