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Where will Johnny Gaudreau sign in free agency?

All-Star left wing won’t head back to Calgary. So where will Gaudreau end up today? We take a look and track rumors.

Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Edmonton Oilers during Game One of the Second Round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Saddledome on May 18, 2022 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Update, 7:05 p.m. ET — Uhhhhh, what’s going on? Gaudreau is reportedly heading to the Columbus Blue Jackets on a seven-year deal worth $9.8 million annually, per Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Update, 5:18 p.m. ET — Well we have a new development at least. The Flyers were never in on Gaudreau despite speculation he wanted to play in Philly, close to where he’s from. Chuck Fletcher told reporters the Flyers are done for the day and they were never in on the left wing. So that seems to eliminate one team and lines up with reports.

Update, 5:00 p.m. ET — So the Gaudreau sweepstakes has come to a halt and is moving incredibly slow. The Devils and Isles are still being reported as the finalists at this point. A new team has somewhat emerged via Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. The Columbus Blue Jackets.

It’s a longshot for Gaudreau to sign in Columbus. It’s very far from his home in New Jersey. Apparently, the Jackets are making a very strong push for Gaudreau. That may include a big contract. That’s about all the Jackets can offer Gaudreau. It feels unlikely he chooses Columbus over the Devils or Isles but it’s worth noting.

Update, 1:42 p.m. ET — We’re almost two hours into free agency and a ton of moves have been made. A ton of moves that don’t include Gaudreau signing with a team yet. NHL Network analysts are saying it’s down to the Devils and Islanders, with the lean being New Jersey unless the Isles can do more. The Flyers are botching the hell out of this thing because of their cap situation.

The Calgary Flames were informed by LW Johnny Gaudreau that he won’t be re-signing with the team and will hit the open market at noon ET on Wednesday afternoon. The Flames thanked Gaudreau and appear set to move on without him, focusing on signing RFA Matthew Tkachuk. So with Johnny Hockey available and set to test the waters, where will he end up on his next contract?

We know that Gaudreau wants to play close to home in New Jersey. He grew up a Flyers fan having lived in Salem, N.J. in the southern part of the state. So with that information we know that it may come down to a handful of teams in the tri-state area. The Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders appear to be the most likely teams to sign Gaudreau.

If you look in terms of money and cap situation, the Flyers need to offload James van Riemsdyk’s contract before making any moves. Philly has around $3-4 million in cap space at the moment and JvR is set to make $7M in 2022-23. Moving JvR will be tricky since the contract is bloated and the Flyers are reluctant to give up a first-round pick to offload his contract. If it means signing Gaudreau, we may see Philly pull the trigger there. If not, Gaudreau may seek one of the other rival teams.

Reports are saying the Flyers are expected to clear the cap to sign Gaudreau. They still need help from elsewhere. We’ll see if JvR or another big contract on Philly gets moved in order to sign Gaudreau. There are also reports saying the Devils are the frontrunners to sign Johnny Hockey. We’ll see what comes of it this afternoon.

The Islanders have the cap space to land Gaudreau with around $11 million to play around with. The issue is what happens in the future. Gaudreau could take up all of that $11M and the Islanders need to sign C Mathew Barzal to an extension this offseason. Goalie Ilya Sorokin also needs a new deal after two seasons and could command a hefty salary. So between Barzal and Sorokin, the Isles will need to commit a lot of money long-term. Or let them walk and proceed with Gaudreau? We know Johnny Hockey wants to compete for the Cup.

The Devils make the most sense (and not just because I’m a biased fan). New Jersey has plenty of cap space at just about $27 million this offseason. RFA F Jesper Bratt needs a new deal. There are a few other forwards who will need contracts but not anything monumental. The Devils also have cornerstones in place with Jack Hughes, Nico Hischier and Dougie Hamilton all signed long-term. Add Gaudreau to that core and shore up the goaltending and New Jersey would have a playoff contending team, possibly something better.