Johnny Gaudreau leaving Calgary for Columbus as star forward signs with Blue Jackets

Click to play video: '‘It was best for us not to go back’: Gaudreau heads east in free agency blockbuster'
‘It was best for us not to go back’: Gaudreau heads east in free agency blockbuster
WATCH ABOVE: (From July 14, 2022) The dust is still settling after Johnny Gaudreau opted to leave Calgary for Columbus in a free agency shocker. As Cami Kepke reports, the decision was Gaudreau's to make, but fiery Flames fans may give him the cold shoulder – Jul 14, 2022

A hectic start to the NHL‘s free-agency period Wednesday closed with the Columbus Blue Jackets landing the highest-profile player: “Johnny Hockey.”

Johnny Gaudreau cashed in on a career season by signing a US$68.25 million, seven-year contract with Columbus in the Blue Jackets’ bid to return to prominence after losing their core of stars — including Artemi Panarin — in free agency two years ago.

Gaudreau’s decision to sign with Columbus came a day after turning down what an eight-year deal to re-sign with Calgary, where he spent his first nine NHL seasons. The Blue Jackets also signed defenceman Erik Gudbranson to a four-year, US$16 million contract.

“Johnny Gaudreau is a superstar in the National Hockey League, and we couldn’t be happier to welcome him,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

“He is an elite player with great character that makes the players around him better.”

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The 28-year-old who played at Boston College finished tied for second in the NHL with a career-best 115 points and 40 goals last season. And so much for the speculation of Gaudreau, who is from New Jersey, heading to a team much closer to home such as the Devils, Philadelphia Flyers or New York Islanders.

READ MORE: Calgary Flames GM confirms Johnny Gaudreau will test NHL’s free agent market

Gaudreau’s signing highlighted a busy day in which Claude Giroux looked ahead to a homecoming in Ottawa, the Washington Capitals landed Stanley Cup-winning goalie Darcy Kuemper and the New York Rangers spent big on centre Vincent Trocheck.

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