Gaudreau: Blue Jackets were ‘circled on my list for a while’

Posted: 16/07/2022 in NHL
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Johnny Gaudreau has answered the question on every hockey fan’s mind: Why the Columbus Blue Jackets?

“I’ve gotten to play here many times, and every time it’s a lot of fun to play here,” Gaudreau said Thursday at his introductory press conference. “There’s a good, young group here, and that attracted me too. Me and my wife thought it was a really good fit for us. … It was somewhere that I had circled on my list for a while now.”

Gaudreau, this summer’s biggest free agent, sent shockwaves across the hockey world by signing a seven-year, $68.25-million deal with Columbus on Wednesday. The move ended a 9-year stint with the Calgary Flames, who reportedly offered more money.

For Johnny Hockey, the decision came down to a desire to be closer to home.

“I always dreamed about playing a tad closer to home,” Gaudreau said. “It didn’t matter where I was signing. I think our decision was it was best for us not to go back to Calgary. Then we decided what to figure out, what the best option (was) for us, and Columbus was right up at the top of the list.”

Gaudreau hails from New Jersey. The Devils, Philadelphia Flyers, and New York Islanders were all believed to be in the mix for his services, but Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to add a player of Gaudreau’s caliber.

“We’re usually pretty careful on the first day of free agency,” Kekalainen said. “When this opportunity was in front of us, we were not careful at all. We went right for it.”

Columbus has long been labeled an undesirable destination for players, especially after the star trio of Artemi PanarinSergei Bobrovsky, and Matt Duchene elected to walk away from the club in free agency in 2019.

“I get a rash every time I hear the negative comments about Columbus. It’s so unfair,” Kekalainen said.

The Blue Jackets missed the playoffs this past season, their first under new head coach Brad Larsen. Gaudreau arrives with the mindset that the club is ready to be competitive again.

“I didn’t come to Columbus to check out the views,” he said. “I came here to win hockey games.”

Gaudreau should instantly make the Blue Jackets a better team. The 28-year-old has notched 609 points in 602 career games, including a personal-best 115 last season with the Flames.

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