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Johnny Gaudreau ready to play season opener

Flames forward will be in lineup against Oilers

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

CALGARY -- Calgary Flames forward Johnny Gaudreau had no desire to miss the start of the regular season.

Gaudreau, a restricted free agent, will be in the lineup when the Flames open the season against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place on Wednesday (10 p.m. ET; SN, TVA Sports 2) after signing a six-year contract on Monday reportedly worth an average annual value of $6.75 million and a total value of $40.5 million.

"It was difficult," Gaudreau said. "I want to be out there with my teammates. I want to be playing hockey. I love the sport so much. It's so fun for me. I've been playing all my life. I enjoy it every time I step on the ice. It was extremely difficult. I'm happy it's over.

"I wanted it to get done as quick as possible. My agent and my family felt it was necessary to try to get a fair deal for myself. But at the end of the day, I knew I wasn't going to miss any games."

Gaudreau, who became a restricted free agent July 1, joined the Flames in practice for the first time Tuesday.

"I wish it would've happened a little quicker, but that's the way the business works," he said. "You keep hearing that. There's a business side to this. I let my agent handle that and the owners handle that and waited it out and waited to see what happened.

"I'm happy. Hopefully this is the last time I'm going to have to talk about a contract for six years. I'm really happy. My family and my agent, the way they supported me through this whole process, and the guys in the locker room sending me texts throughout the whole process there, just keep my spirits up. There was a lot of support from a lot of people, so it was a great help from a lot of people."

Gaudreau led Calgary in goals (30) and assists (48) last season, and was tied for sixth in the NHL with 78 points. He also played for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 last month, when he shared the team lead in goals (two) and points (four), helping it go 2-1-0 in the tournament.

Flames general manager Brad Treliving was confident Gaudreau would sign before the start of the regular season.

Video: CGY@EDM: Gaudreau slips the puck between the posts

"You're always confident. That's always the goal," Treliving said. "You stay focused on the deal. There is always noise around it. There are always questions. There's always the calendar of saying, 'with each day that goes by we're one day closer to the start of the regular season.'

"We wanted him here. He wanted to be here. You start looking at alternatives if he's not here. Obviously it would have a huge impact on the team, but what scenarios do you look at in terms of bridging it until he gets here. Thankfully we didn't have to get there, but there's some concern. Again, your focus is getting a deal. When you put your energies in the right place, you get to the right result."

Gaudreau missed all of training camp, but the signing came two days before the Flames open the regular season against the Oilers.

It'll allow Gaudreau to be back on center Sean Monahan's left wing on Wednesday.

Gaudreau and Monahan, who was a restricted free agent and signed a seven-year contract with a reported average annual value of $6.375 million on Aug. 19, have been linemates for the past two seasons. Together, they have combined for 112 goals and 267 points.

Monahan was positive he'd have Gaudreau back on his line by the start of the regular season.

"I never really had any doubt," Monahan said. "You guys know Johnny. He loves to play hockey. The way he plays out there is exciting. He just wanted to play. That's the business side of things. I was sure something was going to get done, and obviously it did. Mentally it was getting close to the season, so you've got to move forward and think he's not going to be here. But in my mind, I thought something was going to get done.

"I talked to Johnny almost every day throughout the whole process, and obviously I was on him to make sure he was going to be back here. When I found out the news, I was really excited. I talked to him and he was back on a plane and back in Calgary."

When he arrived, it was as though nothing happened.

"It felt like normal as soon as I got here," Gaudreau said. "I met some new faces and got right back to playing hockey. I'm excited to be back here. I'm excited to start this new journey and be in this great city of Calgary for the next six years."

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