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A Flames Opening Night Lineup Sans Johnny Gaudreau

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Preparing for the very real possibility of Johnny Gaudreau’s standoff going into the regular season

Hockey: World Cup of Hockey-Pre Tournament-Team Europe vs Team North America Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

“Oh, the contract should be done by the draft”

“He’ll be signed shortly into free agency”

“He’ll be signed now that Monahan has signed”

“He’ll definitely be signed by the World Cup”

“He’ll probably be signed right after the World Cup”

Those are just some of the headlines that many of us Flames fans have had to endure throughout the last 4-5 months. Sure this Johnny Gaudreau contract standoff has gone much, much, much longer than anyone could’ve expected, but now as the regular season draws near in just over a week, little negotiating has been done between the two sides.

This leaves the Flames in a very precarious position as their preseason schedule draws to a close on Thursday in Vancouver. There is now a very real possibility that Johnny and his agent could hold out into the regular season as both sides remain steadfast on their cases.

It’s very possible that Gaudreau’s camp or Treliving’s camp could use the results of the first few games as a negotiating point. If the Flames can go 3-0 or 2-1 in their first trio of games, they could whittle down Gaudreau’s arguments, while if they go 1-2 or 0-3, Gaudreau’s agent can do just the opposite and prove his client’s importance to the team.

No doubt Gaudreau deserves big money from this team, and let’s be honest he deserves to be the highest paid player on the team. However, if they’re demanding as much money as the media reported, and are unwavering, then they may be in for a long negotiation yet.

With this is mind, we have to look at what a possible Flames opening night lineup could look like without Johnny Gaudreau, even if it’s just short term.

It would likely look as follows:

Matthew Tkachuk - Sam Bennett - Troy Brouwer

Hunter Shinkaruk - Sean Monahan - Alex Chiasson

Mark Jankowski - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Micheal Ferland

Brandon Bollig

Freddie Hamilton

Obviously, the lineup would start off with the trio that has shown a ton of chemistry during training camp and preseason games in Tkachuk, Bennett, and Brouwer. From there things could get interesting as Sean Monahan would likely fall into a second line roll missing his key linemate in Johnny. Next we would see the duo of Backlund and Frolik paired up with the rookie Jankowski (more in a minute), and then the typical fourth line of Bouma, Stajan and Ferland.

I’m sure there are some questioning my reasoning for having Mark Jankowski, and even to an extent having Matthew Tkachuk in the lineup on opening night. My reasoning is that the Flames would like to temporarily replace their youth from Gaudreau with more youth.

Tkachuk would have 9 games to play before having to burn a year on his ELC if the Flames chose to send him back to the OHL, also giving the Flames until October 30th to make a decision about him, and hopefully by then Gaudreau’s deal should be done.

For Jankowski, now on his first pro contract, it wouldn’t hurt to begin giving him NHL experience since he’ll likely be a relied upon contributor for the Stockton Heat. If Gaudreau’s negotiations only last a few games into the season (which they should, fingers crossed) then its best to give that experience to Jankowski to develop in real game action.

After Gaudreau’s return, barring an amazing stint of games, Jankowski would likely be returned to the AHL so he can continue to develop playing top line minutes which he likely wouldn’t get as much here.

I really hope that this Gaudreau deal can get done before that the season starts and that I’ll look stupid for publishing this article right before he signed. Unfortunately though, I have a feeling that I might not be far off by making this article. Come on Johnny and Brad, let’s make a deal.