NJ native Johnny Gaudreau to Devils is ‘most realistic option,’ NHL insider says

If Tom Fitzgerald wants top-end talent on the Devils, he should look to the Jersey kid.

Johnny Gaudreu, a Salem County native and six-time All Star with the Calgary Flames, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. He scored 115 points in 2021-22 and is likely the top prize on the market.

But would he consider joining a New Jersey team that went 27-46-9 last year? Hailey Salvian of The Athletic thinks so.

“New Jersey might be the most realistic option here, outside of an extension in Calgary, or at the very least the most seamless fit,” Salvian wrote. “They’re an East Coast team with cap space, a talented young roster, a future star at center and the desire to get better – now.”

Salvian went on to discuss more of New Jersey’s bright spots: the $ 25 million in cap space, the lack of expensive players to resign and the assets they have on their roster. Fitzgerald wants an “immediate impact” player –– and is even willing to trade the No. 2 pick to get one –– so why not make a big push for Gaudreau?

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The cost would be steep. Gaudreau made $ 6.75 million per year over the past six seasons, but improved play has earned him a raise. The Athletic projects that he would make $ 9 million to $ 10.5 million per year in his new deal.

Gaudreau, 28, reportedly loves playing for the Flames and Calgary general manager Brad Treliving said he would “move heaven and earth” to retain his star. Calgary finished 50-21-11 this season and were eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The other Salvian teams mentioned as being a possible Gaudreau landing spot are the Philadelphia Flyers –– Gaudreau’s childhood favorite team –– the New York Islanders, the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Ryan Novozinsky may be reached at rnovozinsky@njadvancemedia.com. You can follow him on Twitter @ryannovo62.

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