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Would Johnny Gaudreau Be a Good Fit in San Jose?



Credit: mark6mauno (CC BY-SA 2.0)

This much we know: Doug Wilson loves trading for depressed assets.

For a variety of reasons, stars like Erik Karlsson, Evander Kane, and Joe Thornton found their way to San Jose for quarters on the dollar.

On Friday, Eric Francis of Sportsnet reported that Johnny Gaudreau had “likely played his last game as a Calgary Flame.” He also added: “There is no chance Gaudreau would re-sign in Calgary when his contract expires in the summer of 2022, which means he needs to be dealt well before then.”

Gaudreau also has a modified no-trade clause that kicks in 2021-22, the last year of his current deal, which will limit Calgary to five trade destinations of the winger’s choice.

So if the Flames are indeed done with Johnny Hockey, it would make a lot of sense for them to deal him at least before the next Trade Deadline.

So where do the San Jose Sharks fit in?

• Gaudreau could still be an elite talent. He’s just 27, and despite suffering an inconsistent season, is only a year removed from a Hart Trophy-caliber campaign — in fact, I voted him third in 2018-19, behind Sidney Crosby and Nikita Kucherov. Tallying all the votes, he finished fourth.

A scout shared: “He was inconsistent but certainly can be a game-changer when he’s on. Hit or miss for me in my viewings this year.”

• Gaudreau fills a team need. There’s no doubt that the 5-foot-9 winger could inject a ton of skill and creativity into San Jose’s 27th-ranked offense, 23rd-ranked power play, and generally underwhelming forward depth.

• Gaudreau can be just another guy with the Sharks. In Calgary, Johnny Hockey was a superstar, the face of the francise. In San Jose, he’ll be able to walk around the city unrecognized and take off his equipment without hassle while reporters chase the likes of Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, and captain Logan Couture. The potential returns of legends Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau could provide even more cover.

• Gaudreau’s cap hit is reasonable. At $6.75 million per for the next two seasons, he’ll be far more affordable than say, pending UFA Taylor Hall. While the cap-strapped San Jose Sharks will struggle to fit even 6.75, it’s more plausible than again, Hall. I’ll circle back to this later.

• Gaudreau could be acquired for relatively cheap. According to Francis, Calgary has soured on Gaudreau because of back-to-back poor playoff showings: “In a flat cap world it’s going to be hard enough to swap out Gaudreau for any meaningful return, let alone a man making $6.75 million.”

Here’s a hypothetical: Last summer, if Doug Wilson offered, say, Timo Meier — signed for four more years at $6 million dollars per — straight up for Gaudreau, he would’ve been laughed out of the room. Now? It sounds like Calgary would take that and run.

This is where the San Jose Sharks don’t fit:

• The Sharks are in the same division as the Flames. Would Brad Treliving trade his star within the Pacific? It’s one thing trading James Neal to Edmonton, a franchise face could be another story.

• There might be more going on behind the scenes. Sure, Gaudreau has had consecutive tough post-seasons and endured an underwhelming 2019-20 — but he just turned 27 and is a proven point-per-game playmaker. Even with a flat cap, $6.75 million was not a wild overpay for his 2019-20 and was a bargain in 2018-19. So what gives?

• Would Gaudreau stay in San Jose? I’d imagine the Sharks, if interested, would trade for the winger with an eye toward keeping him after 2022. The New Jersey native himself has said it “would be sweet” to play closer to home.

For what it’s worth, Gaudreau pushed back both on that 2017 declaration and Francis’s report during his exit interview today, saying of Calgary: “It’s a team I could see myself playing for for the remainder of my career, and I’ve always said that. I know a lot of people have speculations of me wanting to go back east. But I just feel really comfortable where I’m at with the teammates there, the coaching staff, with Brad, the management team, and the owners.”

• San Jose has a lot of holes — is it really possible to fit Gaudreau’s $6.75 million cap hit? It appears so — if a number of (reasonable) hypotheticals fall in place. This is assuming the acquisition of Gaudreau without parting with a Meier or a Kevin Labanc — it’s tight, but doable. Alexander True and Noah Gregor, who are still on their ELCs, can be shuttled back and forth between the AHL:

2020-21 San Jose Sharks?

Couture, Logan8,000,000
Kane, Evander7,000,000
Meier, Timo6,000,000
Hertl, Tomas5,625,000
Sörensen, Marcus1,500,000
Gambrell, Dylan700,000
Gaudreau, Johnny6,750,000
Labanc, Kevin3,000,000
Marleau, Patrick1,000,000
Thornton, Joe1,000,000
Noesen, Stefan800,000
Kellman, Joel750,000
Karlsson, Erik11,500,000
Burns, Brent8,000,000
Vlasic, Marc-Édouard7,000,000
Simek, Radim2,250,000
Heed, Tim1,000,000
Ferraro, Mario925,000
Jones, Martin5,750,000
Greiss, Thomas2,500,000

Granted, for San Jose, acquiring a Gaudreau might make for another top-heavy piece for an already top-heavy group — but we know Doug Wilson always has his eye out for special talent. Gaudreau fits the bill and at a discount.

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