Flames star Johnny Gaudreau leaves Calgary — for Ohio

Columbus Blue Jackets grab popular Calgary forward in free agency in 7-year deal worth $68 million US, leaving Flames fans saddened and baffled.

Columbus Blue Jackets grab popular forward in free agency in 7-year deal worth $68M

Flames general manager Brad Treliving said winger Johnny Gaudreau 'agonized' over his decision and said the reason for moving on from Calgary, in the end, was a 'family decision' and not about dollars. (Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports via Reuters)

The Columbus Blue Jackets made a big splash Wednesday by landing star forward Johnny Gaudreau on a seven-year deal worth over $68 million US, according to multiple reports. 

The popular Gaudreau was snapped up as free agency officially began Wednesday, one day after Calgary general manager Brad Treliving confirmed the all-star player would not be re-signing with the Flames.

Gaudreau, a fourth-round pick by the Flames in 2011, put up a career-high 40 goals, 75 assists and 115 points in 2021-22, becoming a more well-rounded player in the process.

Sportsnet analyst Eric Francis said the news came as a "gut punch," leaving many fans feeling frustrated and sad. 

"You're now going to Columbus, which is an eight-hour drive from [New] Jersey where Johnny is from," Francis told CBC Calgary News at 6

"It's normal when there's a breakup. Breakups aren't easy. We all know that. But I think this just makes it a little bit worse. It's kind of like seeing your ex with somebody else right away, and it really hurts." 

Former Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi also weighed in on Gaudreau's departure on social media. 

He said Gaudreau was "nothing but class here in our community." But he also took a dig at the U.S. city. 

"I spent a lot of time living and working in Columbus. Nice people and lovely vibrant city. But Calgary is so much better. Not sure I'd leave $12 [plus] million on the table to leave here for there." 

Even before news of Gaudreau's decision to join the Blue Jackets broke, Calgary fans were feeling the pain of his departure.

Earlier in the day, Flames fan Mihailo Jankovic told CBC he's sad to see Gaudreau leave, and says it's a blow to the team. 

"What can you do, no more 'go Johnny go.' He was our guy, sad to see him go … good luck to him, but we will miss him for sure."

Flames fan Scott McDougall said he's disappointed, but not surprised. 

"I think people have been preparing. It's too bad it happened on Stampede week too, its time of celebration," McDougall said. 

"It's unfortunate that it happens this week, but it's a business, of course, and I'm sure the team will come back strong again next year." 


Jade Markus

Digital journalist

Jade Markus is a digital journalist at CBC Calgary.

With files from the Canadian Press and Dave Gilson


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