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Treliving excited to get Gaudreau signed long-term

by George Johnson @GeorgejohnsonCH /

CALGARY, AB -- Heading through a side door into the misty, snowy, early afternoon Thanksgiving Monday following practice, Brad Treliving managed a weary smile - part hopeful, part resigned - when the inevitable Johnny Gaudreau question was lobbed at him like a live grenade.

He's become adroit at hearing someone shout "Incoming!" and dodging that specific brand of shrapnel.

"I'm going home,'' Treliving sighed as he exited the Scotiabank Saddledome, "to have a turkey dinner with my family and maybe even a beer."

Then, as the door began to drift shut, the Calgary Flames' general manager playfully glanced towards the heavens and made the sign of the cross.

Ask and ye shall …

Johnny Gaudreau, the wee wizard, has been locked down for the next half dozen seasons, at $40.5 million, or $6.75 million a season, on par with captain Mark Giordano's contract.

The deal that came together quickly on Monday afternoon also reportedly includes a $3 million signing bonus.

Good value for a franchise. Ridiculously good money for any 23-year-old.

The agreement helps avoid any distasteful public wrangling and injects a serious bit of mojo into Calgary's lineup.

Gaudreau is, as everyone is well aware, the young, fresh face of a franchise trying to re-define itself. Its undisputed poster boy. Responsible for 51-percent of Flames' jersey sales.

And, most importantly, a whoopee-cushion of a winger, capable of ejecting people from their seats like the passage side of 007's Aston Martin's DB5.

Young players want to emulate him, their dads want his autograph, their moms want to mother him and their sisters want to marry him.

Johnny exudes star quality. What all-time Flame great Joe Nieuwendyk calls the "Wow!" factor.

Which naturally made for anxiety among the Calgary fan base as negotiations droned on.

"You wish it only took one phone call,'' said Treliving late Monday afternoon. "But this was a unique negotiation. He's a special player. A special talent. His body of work has been elite over the last two years.

"But it is still a small body of work.

"No pun intended.

"What you need is a deal that works for both sides. "For Johnny, recognizing his abilities and what he means to our team. And for the team itself, moving forward.

"All along, he wanted to play here, we wanted him here, we were all focused on getting something done. And we did.

"With lots of time to spare."

Well, not lots, actually. Only two sleeps remain until the curtain-raiser Wednesday at Rogers Place. Still, enough time to hustle him in for practice on Tuesday before the short jaunt up north.

As talks began to drag on, to stop and start, the Flames had come to grips with opening the season minus their leading scorer and most dynamic impresario.

"You want your best on the ice,'' said Treliving. "Always. Every point in this league is critical. We certainly understand that. But when you get closer and closer to the opener, and he's not here … well, the game's going to happen on Wednesday, whether Johnny's there or I'm there or whoever-you-want-to-name's there.

"You wish you could avoid that scenario but you have to prepare for it, just in case. Saying that, in your heart of hearts you hope something's going to get done.

"At the end of the day, he's a hockey player. He doesn't want to be sitting. He wants to play."

Sean Monahan, Gaudreau's sidekick, signed a seven-year, $44.6 million deal that works out to $6.375 million a year.

What people often overlook is that this dollar figure and tenure impacts all future ones.

 The Johnny Gaudreau contract begats the next Sam Bennett contract, begats the second Matthew Tkachuk deal begats … and so on, and so forth.

"That's the hardest part. Getting people to realize … it's a business, too,'' said Treliving. "Hey, as I said, Johnny's unique, a special player. You think I didn't want to see him in our lineup as much as anybody in the city? Please …

"And we all think we should get X amount, right?

"But you're trying to build a team here. You have a lot of people to look after. So it can't be just what's good for tonight. It's got to be good for Year 2, 3 and 4, too.

"The way you have to put together that team is get your core signed long-term at the best numbers you can and carefully build around that.

"Now you can look at us and say: Johnny's long-term, Mony's long-term, you got Brodie, you got Hamilton. Probably the next pillar here is the goaltender (Brian Elliott).

"It's like a bowl of chicken wings, right? If there are 15 in the bowl, everyone wants one but some guy eats five, somebody starves.

"At the end of the day, players want to win. But in trying: 'I'm not trying to harm you or disrespect you, but it's got to work for both sides."

"You need a little meat left on those chicken bones to feed the others."

The tide began to turn, according to Treliving, when he made a jaunt east for some face-to-face chat.

"I went out to New York and Philadelphia and met with the agent (Lewis Gross) one night and met with the family and Brian (Burke) came in, too.

"And we started to get momentum. Since then it's been all-day, every-day."

The wait has gone on longer than anyone could've anticipated, or wished for.

The important part, though, is that resolution has been hammered out and No. 13 will be weaving his magic come Wednesday against those dastardly Oilers.

"I don't really know what time it is, actually,'' admitted Treliving with a laugh. "Is it noon? Is it 4?

"We've still got a lot of work to do to get down to our final roster.

"But I imagine I'll sleep better tonight."

So very much had changed since he left by that side door post-practice into the misty, snowy afternoon. Since he'd glanced heavenward and playfully made the sign of the cross.

Well, prayers answered.

Enjoy the turkey and a cold one.

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