The Calgary Flames have yet to come to terms on a new contract with restricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau this summer.
Despite this, though, the forward plans to still play in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey, no matter what.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman confirmed on Wednesday that Gaudreau, who finished his 2015-16 season with 30 goals and 78 points in 79 regular season games, plans to compete in the international competition this September regardless of whether he’s under contract or not.
He’s not the only player who currently sits unsigned as the World Cup looms closer, so this isn’t just a Calgary-Gaudreau issue.
He’s one of three players on Team North America alone, alongside forward and teammate Sean Monahan and blue liner Jacob Trouba, who will have to decide on purchasing additional insurance in order to play if he and his team haven’t come to terms by September 17th.
Friedman believes that Gaudreau has made the decision to purchase the insurance, reaffirmed by his decision to play; the other two, so far, have been mum.
While Trouba and Monahan haven’t publicly made a decision yet, though, it’s worth nothing that Gaudreau isn’t the only player who has made it fairly clear that he’ll compete with or without a contract – and they aren’t the only two who haven’t been forthcoming.
Arizona Coyotes forward Tobias Rieder, who is another restricted free agent who could reach September without a new contract, has alluded to playing in the tournament regardless of how negotiations are going with his club.
He and Gaudreau are the only two who have been fairly open about this, though.
Along with questions about Trouba and Monahan, there are two Russian players currently without contracts heading into the World Cup who, while expected to both play for their national team, haven’t outright confirmed such.
Both forward Nikita Kucherov of the Tampa Bay Lightning and defenseman Dmitry Orlov of the Washington Capitals will have to join the four players already mentioned in purchasing alternative insurance to play next month, should they hit mid-September without deals of their own. So far, they haven’t given any indication one way or another that they’ll play, leaving the assumption that they’ll be on the ice in Toronto this September as almost purely speculation.
Aside from the questions about whether players will participate in the games, there’s one more question that will be brought up – and that’s whether negotiations for any of these six will continue during the World Cup if the skaters do choose to play without new deals.
Gaudreau has confirmed that he will want to halt negotiations during the World Cup if he and the team haven’t come to terms by then, giving Calgary almost a full month during which they won’t be able to get something done (the forward will arrive for the games on September 4th, and they will end on October 1st). If the other players relay similar wishes to their respective clubs, things could get difficult for Calgary, Arizona, Tampa Bay, and Washington – as that will leave all four clubs with less than two weeks to the start of the regular season in order to get contracts wrapped up with these players.