Johnny Gaudreau, 5-9, 165 pounds
August 19, 1993 (28 years old)
Signed as a UFA, July 13, 2022
Cap hit: $9.75M Through 2028-29
Role: Top line winger
It’s hard to believe how much the outlook has changed for the Columbus Blue Jackets in just one short month. Entering free agency, the team had hopes of adding size and toughness on defense; doing so by signing unrestricted free agent Erik Gudbranson. But nobody in the hockey world expected the team to sign the top UFA prize of all – Johnny Gaudreau.
While there are a few marquee UFA options that can step into a lineup and make a big impact every year, it’s pretty rare that a player like Gaudreau becomes available. Last season he finished second in the entire NHL in scoring with 115 points – leading the league in 5 on 5 points and finishing with a league-best +64 rating. This is one of the most elite playmaking wingers in the world, and he’s still in his prime.
We’ve talked at length about him choosing Columbus; and while it’s still shocking to many in the hockey world, it’s not all that surprising to those of us who know the city and franchise. Most importantly, Gaudreau joins an improving team with a ton of upside, where he will have the chance to play in a top-line role without the media frenzy that comes with larger market teams. He’s a quiet guy who wants to raise a family. What better situation to put himself into, than Columbus?
Three Keys to Success
- Don’t try to do too much. Keep it simple, use his linemates, and play the type of game that has made him a star.
- Ignore the hate. He’s going to get booed in at least two or three road venues – including a couple in the Metro. But, he chose Columbus and he should use that hate to fuel his motor on the ice.
- Get support. No player can do it all – not even one this talented. The club is loaded with talent on the wings, but finding a center that can flow with Johnny and whoever plays opposite, will be important to the line’s overall success.
2022-23 Expectation: Lead the way on the top line.
A successful season for Johnny Gaudreau, is going to be determined by his production. We can talk about leadership and two-way play as much as we want, but if he isn’t producing at or near a point per game, he won’t live up to the massive contract he just signed. That said, he’s definitely talented enough, and contrary to what people on the outside might think, he will have a pretty good supporting cast here. He’s a play driving winger; if he can play in all 82 games and the team around him remains somewhat healthy, I think an 80-90 point season is definitely a possibility.