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Johnny Gaudreau makes Blue Jackets a winner

Judging success and failure in the free NHL agency a few hours after the market opens can be tricky, looking to the future to predict what moves will occur or not.

Looking back at Wednesday’s countless signings, it seems relatively easy to identify at least one winner and one loser.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made the biggest leap, stunning the league by getting Johnny Gaudreau on a seven-year contract for $ 68.25 million.

“Getting a player of his caliber is going to improve us instantly and improve the players around him, which is really important in the culture of a hockey team,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said on Thursday. “Exciting day for the Blue Jackets organization. That’s obvious, and I can’t stress it enough. “

Announcement

Gaudreau, a first-team NHL player last season, turned Calgary into a loser when he informed the Flames on the eve of the free agency not signing his eight-year offer to stay.

“It was a difficult decision,” Gaudreau said, citing the exit as the right move for him and his wife. “It was a very difficult decision, but something that Meredith and I talked about there for a long time. It was difficult, but it was the best for us.”

Columbus added a 28-year-old, six-time All-Star player at his best. The tiny, dynamic winger had records in his career last season with 40 goals and 115 points, giving him 210 goals and 609 points in 602 games for the Flames.

The Blue Jackets instantly increased their chances of reaching the playoffs, after missing them the last two years, and improved their chances of advancing to the playoffs only for the second time since the franchise entered the league in 2000.

Announcement

Calgary, meanwhile, will have to make some major signings or exchanges to make up for Gaudreau’s loss. If the Flames are losing this summer, they could remember how bad it was before Gaudreau arrived, when they lost five consecutive postseasons.

Here’s a look at some teams that seemed to win and lose the opening day of the NHL free agency:

CAROLINA HURRICANE

The Hurricanes made a couple of powerful moves that should help the two-time defending champions of the division keep pace with the Eastern Conference powers.

Carolina acquired 2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns in an exchange with San Jose and extreme veteran Max Pacioretty in another exchange, taking advantage of the fact that Vegas struggled to manage its salary cap.

VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS

After failing to reach the playoffs for the first time in his five seasons in the NHL, Vegas had to unload a player he could not afford to keep.

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Pacioretty had 97 goals and 97 assists over four seasons with the Golden Knights, who will have a hard time replacing their production on a tight budget.

THE REDS OF DETROIT

Apparently, Steve Yzerman was left impatient. The Hall of Fame member and former Red Wings captain has abandoned his plan to focus on selecting and developing players with a series of moves that could make the once again proud franchise relevant again.

Detroit signed center Andrew Copp on a $ 28.1 million five-year contract, defender Ben Chiarot on a $ 19 million four-year contract and a pair of wings on two-year contracts: David Perron for 9, $ 5 million and Dominik Kubalik for $ 5 million.

TORONTO MAPLE LEAVES

After a sixth straight first-round playoff appearance, Toronto lost their No. 1 goalie, Jack Campbell, to free agency when he signed a five-year, $ 25 million contract with Edmonton.

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The Maple Leafs just don’t look so good on the net. They gave goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov a one-year contract to join Matt Murray, acquired from Ottawa a few days earlier, and have players who have given up more than three goals per game last season.

WASHINGTON CAPITAL

Pulling to keep Alex Ovechkin’s championship window open as it approaches its 37th anniversary, Washington has signed Stanley Cup-winning goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper on a five-year deal worth $ 26.25 million.

Kuemper had 37 wins in the regular season and won 10 playoff games for Colorado. It will be backed by 28-year-old Charlie Lindgren, who signed a three-year, $ 3.3 million contract.

FLADERS OF PHILADELPHIA

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Sitting out of the postseason for two years in a row, for the first time since a four-year drought in the early 1990s, didn’t seem to inspire much change in Philadelphia.

With the opportunity to add much-needed talent, the most important signing the Flyers made when they opened the free agency was to give striker Nicolas Deslauriers a four-year contract for $ 1.75 million per season. In 81 games last season in Anaheim and Minnesota, he had eight goals and five assists. Deslauriers, 31, has never scored more than 10 goals.

Gaudreau, who is from Carney’s Point, New Jersey, on the outskirts of Philadelphia and grew up betting on Flyers, avoided mentioning his hometown team at his presentation press conference in Columbus, but seemed to struggle with the missed opportunity.

“I always wanted to play a little closer,” he said. “I think in the East I grew up here, not in Columbus, but on the East Coast. It’s a place I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve been there in Calgary for eight or 12 years since I was recruited until I started playing, and I’ve always dreamed of playing a little closer to home. “

Announcement

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AP hockey writers Stephen Whyno and John Wawrow contributed to this report.

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Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage

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More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/nhl and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Johnny Gaudreau makes Blue Jackets a winner

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