Drafting a player as good as Johnny Gaudreau in the 4th round is like finding a $100 bill in your winter coat when the weather turns. Hard to believe, and even harder to believe how happy you are when it happens. There was some angst and consternation for Flames fans during the "Will he/won't he sign an ELC?" saga that was early-2014, but eventually he did sign with the Flames. He scored a goal in his first and only game of the 2013/14 season, and was pretty prolific in the final 2 years of his ELC. Fantastic for the Flames, and for Gaudreau. But, now it is time for the next contract, and negotations haven't gone as smoothly as a Flames fan might have hoped.
Johnny Gaudreau is in a somewhat unusual position for a player who has finished his ELC, in that he's not eligible for an offer sheet. The CBA requires a player his age to have "3 years professional experience", and Gaudreau does not due to his 1 game pro season in 2013/14 not qualifying* as "a year of professional service". With no arbitration rights and no opportunity to sign an offer sheet, he has no way to leverage himself a deal outside of "holding out". Certainly there is an amount of leverage there, but it's not the same as going to arbitration, or signing an offer sheet with another club. Calgary, on the other hand, might think to themselves "You know, we've got a ton of leverage here. We can theoretically say to Gaudreau ' Here are your options. A 1 yr deal at your QO, or an 8 year deal at 6.75M. You can hold out if you want, but we're not moving and if you don't sign this year, you're in the exact same situation next summer. Do you really want to go play in Russia for a couple years just to be in the same place?'"
Are they going to overtly state this to Gaudreau's camp? Probably not - if I were in Treliving's position, I wouldn't count on such a statement to not create hard feelings. Besides, there is no real need to be explicit; they know it, Gaudreau's representation is almost certainly aware of it as well. A reminder probably only agitates the situation at this point; perhaps they feel differently if he's still unsigned on November 15th.
So what do the Flames want to do? The difference between 6.75M and 8M on an 8 year deal is 10M - not the kind the money a businessman would necessarily want to spend on goodwill, particularly if they don't think their offer is unfair, and don't think Gaudreau has a significantly better alternative. I wonder if the Flames and Gaudreau look at a one year deal? The Flames get another year of relatively cheap information before they commit long term, and Gaudreau would have a stronger bargaining position going forward. The Flames would also then have the opportunity to trade for, or sign a guy like Rakell** to an offer sheet, a RH F that would fit well with CGY, while fitting under the cap. When Gaudreau gets a big pay bump in 17/18, they'll have cleared a bunch of cap space via Smid/Engelland/Wideman (~11.7M) to make room for Gaudreau's raise. Is it worth having to deal with the potential of a somewhat higher cap hit for Gaudreau in 17/18 if there is a chance to get a player like Rakell signed long term? Or are they better off trying to get a good long term deal now, while they hold relatively more negotiating clout? Tough questions, and it will be interesting to see how the Flames handle this situation.
* The CBA also defines a year of "professional experience" as a year played under an SPC, which as I understand it would mean that if Gaudreau went to Europe to play this season, he still wouldn't be eligible for arbitration or an offer sheet next summer.
** Or maybe Trouba, with the recent news of his trade request becoming public.