For the past five months, since the Flames disappointing 2015-16 season came to a close April 8 in Minnesota, Gaudreau's resume has remained stagnant. The bullets found under 'previous work experience' have not changed:
- 119 gm at Boston College, 78-97-175
- 160 gm in the National Hockey League, 55-88-143
- 7 gm at the 2013 World Junior Championships, 7-2-9
- 8 gm at the 2014 World Championships, 2-8-10
But in a scenario that does not come along very often, the contract-less restricted free agent will get a chance to showcase himself right in the midst of negotiations. Better yet and ideally for both sides, this additional work experience Gaudreau is about to add will come against the world's best players.
All Eyes on No. 13
How ratcheted up the intensity will be in this somewhat gimmicky tournament remains to be seen. The NHL wants it to replace the Olympics, but if the Winter Games is Coca-Cola, this manufactured event feels more like Tab cola. Nice try, but a pale comparison.
Sure, there are stars at home due to injuries such as Jamie Benn, Henrik Zetterberg, David Krejci, Duncan Keith, Jeff Carter and Alex Steen. But that's always the case in the Olympics also. This is still very much a close facsimile to best-on-best competition. It should be an ideal proving ground for Gaudreau to further show off his wares.
In this long drawn-out negotiation in which both sides are seeking a long term deal, might the World Cup providing a tipping point? I am fascinated to see if the next three weeks that will see Gaudreau play at least six games and as many as 10, will further cement either side's viewpoint and provide a dose of "I told you so."
For example, should Gaudreau score three times tonight, including dangling around Roman Josi and going bar-down in a video clip that instantly goes viral, that's not going to hurt his cause. Same thing if he leads Team North America to the finals.
But should his impact be minimal. Should he be stifled by the top D pairings he'll see in the round-robin games against Finland, Russia and Sweden, that's not going to help his cause. If he's neutralized throughout the tournament, that could be construed by the Flames as a continuation of the difficulties he had generating offence when up against tough match-ups on the road last year.
A Fascinating Few Weeks
It's this storyline that is one of the most compelling angles to this entire tournament for me because it is a scenario that so seldom happens.
Usually, when you're in contract negotiations like he is, the evidence to be considered in the case has all been tagged and bagged by now and is there on the table on display. But in this case, new exhibits are about to be introduced and I'm fascinated to see what they will be.
Might he use this opportunity to establish himself as one of the world's elite players? For sure it could happen. Similarly, perhaps his performance ends up underwhelming. Small sampling or not, we would be naive to think an extreme performance one way or another wouldn't move the needle a little bit in terms of contract talks. Chalk it up as a recency bias.
Much has been made about where the players motivation levels will be at for this tournament that despite all the hoopla is not the Olympics. What I know is all NHL players are naturally motivated to win. It's how they're wired and it's this competitiveness that's always been in them that's allowed them to reach the highest level.
But if possible, I'd think that for the likes of Gaudreau and the other unsigned free agents seeking big money deals like teammate Jacob Trouba, Rasmus Ristolainen on the Finns, Rickard Rakell on the Swedes and Nikita Kucherov on the Russians, the motivation will be a little bit greater.
In not having a contract today, that's an indication that Gaudreau and the others feel they deserve more money than what they've been offered so far. Well, here's a chance to prove it, for better or for worse.
- Term and Money: Once and For All, Establishing the Marketplace for Gaudreau - Looking to narrow the scope of what Gaudreau could be asking for in a deal, I took 10 relevant contracts, did some triangulation, and came up with fair term/dollars. (September 3, 2016)
- Found Money: Five Flames That Could be Pleasant Surprises in 2016-17 - There's no better feeling than reaching in your pocket and finding $20. Here are five Flames that could be pleasant surprises and end up being 'found money' for Calgary. (September 1, 2016)
- FF80F Podcast: Episode 5 - Cruickshank Joins Haynes for a Look Ahead and Back -Longtime Flames beat writer Scott Cruickshank stops by. We looked back on 2004, talked some Monahan and history of homegrown centres, Gulutzan and Iginla. (August 28, 2016)
- Listen to that Purr: Flames Have Offensive Engine to Drive into the Post-Season - Goal production Calgary got last season from players aged 22 and under is similar to the Toews-Kane Blackhawks and Crosby-Malkin-Staal Penguins. It's a good sign. (August 25, 2016)