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On the opening day of NHL free agency on Wednesday, star forward Johnny Gaudreau caught the hockey world off guard when he forewent expectations and signed a seven-year, $68.25-million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
While Gaudreau had informed the Calgary Flames he would test free agency, his choice to join the Blue Jackets has angered many fans in Alberta and prompted CBC Calgary news anchor Andrew Brown to send a message to Gaudreau on live television when closing the broadcast on Thursday night.
“And that’s the news for now, I’ll be back here at 11, unless a news station in Columbus offers me way less money… and I’ll probably go do that.”
Heading into free agency, it was expected that the Salem, N.J., native was going to sign close to home, either with the New Jersey Devils, Philadelphia Flyers or New York Islanders that were once believed to be front-runners to land his services. Gaudreau ended up with a franchise that is located more than 500 miles away from home, agreeing to a lot less money that was allegedly tendered by the aforementioned interested clubs.
Gaudreau did not want to return to Calgary, dismissing an eight-year contract offer which would make him the highest paid player in franchise history. Pierre LeBrun confirmed that the Flames’ offer was for eight years at $10.5 million annually.
“I think it was just time for me to make a little bit of a change. I’ll leave it at that,” Gaudreau said in his first press conference as a Blue Jacket on Thursday.
Gaudreau left more than just money on the table, he also left a furious fanbase in Calgary and a news anchor gutsy enough to call out the star player on live television.
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