The legend of Johnny Hockey grows by the game.
Wednesday night the sophomore sensation scored twice within a 10-second span, then set up the overtime winner to lead the Calgary Flames to a 2-1 OT win over the Nashville Predators.
Fans went home buzzing about Gaudreau’s efforts and his teammates including Mikael Backlund, the beneficiary of Gaudreau’s OT pass, were once again left to extol his virtues.
“There aren’t too many guys like him in this league,” Backlund said of Gaudreau. “He’s definitely up there with (Chicago Blackhawks forward) Patrick Kane. He’s having a dominant year, but those two guys are so quick in tight with the stick too. It’s impressive to watch.”
After Wednesday’s game, Gaudreau is tied with Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby for sixth place in NHL scoring with 26 goals and 40 assists. That’s impressive for a guy in just his second full season in the NHL and playing on a really bad team with few players who can actually keep up to him in a game.
If it weren’t for Gaudreau, the Flames would be as exciting to watch as the Jacques Lemaire-era Minnesota Wild.
Which makes what is currently underway and what will get hot-and-heavy in the summer very important to the future of the franchise — negotiations on a new contract for the 22-year-old New Jersey native.
About to expire is Gaudreau’s entry-level deal that pays him $925,000 per year, which is $2.2 million less than four-goal scorer Matt Stajan, $1.275 million less than two-goal scorer Lance Bouma, and even less than Brandon Bollig.
Gaudreau is in a position where he can basically tell the Flames money men what he wants to be paid on his next contract. They really have no choice but to give him what he asks for, since they really have no one else who can excite the Calgary fanbase into paying to watch their games. Sean Monahan is really good, but right now he’s not a game-breaker like Gaudreau. After Gaudreau and Monahan there’s not much else.
Gaudreau will get a franchise-record contract this summer, averaging in excess of $7 million per year. He says he likes playing in Calgary and the length of his new deal — how many years past unrestricted free agency (age of 27) it goes — will be the proof how much he actually likes it here.
There was doubt prior to his signing with the Flames in 2013 whether he would agree to come to Calgary, but he did. Now, in terms of hockey, he owns the city.
“The fans are good to us here. It hasn’t been the best season and it hasn’t gone our way. But they support us and have supported us the whole season. It’s great to see. I just get excited to play here,” he said.
He’ll be extra excited when he sees the extra zeroes on his new contract.