If not for a phone call from the Columbus Blue Jackets late Wednesday afternoon, Johnny Gaudreau might be a New Jersey Devil.
Gaudreau, after a monster season, was the top free agent on the market this offseason after he was unable to reach an agreement to stay with the Calgary Flames. His rumored landing spot changed by the minute, but the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils were the teams most often connected to him.
But in a surprise move he signed with the Blue Jackets, inking a seven-year, $68.25 million deal with Columbus.
Apparently, the Blue Jackets swooping in at the 11th hour was surprising to Gaudreau, who admitted on the “Spittin’ Chiclets” podcast that he was about to sign with New Jersey.
“I had like three, four teams that I knew I wanted to play for," Gaudreau said. "Columbus was obviously high on that list for me, but there were a few other teams. The day of I was only really talking to two of them, so I was pretty much signing with a different team, most of the day I hadn’t heard from Columbus.
“And then all of the sudden they called at like four, and I told my agent I want to go here, just try to get this done. This is the spot I want to be, right here. He got it done in an hour and the next thing you know I was signing with Columbus. It was a stressful day, but I was super excited. …
“I was super thankful that Columbus called during that late hour in the afternoon. I was pretty much I think trying to get a deal done with the Devils, and then Columbus called and I was like I want to go here.”
The Blue Jackets and Devils are in similar positions right now as teams that have rebuilt and now seem ready to load up and start competing for playoff spots again. Getting Gaudreau goes a long way in accomplishing that, and the Devils came up just short.