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Gaudreau was close to signing with Devils before Blue Jackets called

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The Columbus Blue Jackets eventually won the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes, but this summer's most coveted free agent admitted he came close to signing with the New Jersey Devils on July 13.

"The day of, I was only really talking to two (teams)," Gaudreau said during an appearance on "Spittin Chiclets." "I was pretty much signed with a different team, most of the day I hadn't heard from Columbus, and then all of a sudden they called at like 4 p.m., and I told my agent, 'I want to go here. Just try to get this done. This is the spot I want to be right here.'

"I was super thankful Columbus called during that late hour in the afternoon," he added. "I think I was trying to get a deal done with the Devils, and then Columbus called."

The star winger hails from New Jersey, and the Devils were believed to have offered him a seven-year deal that carried an average annual value of over $9 million, according to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun.

Gaudreau's desire to be closer to his loved ones drew him away from the Calgary Flames, but distance ultimately gave the Blue Jackets an edge over the Devils for him and his wife while they expect their first child.

"I always said I wanted to play closer to home, but (Columbus) wasn't too close to where I'm getting bombarded with friends and family, basically an open-door policy, come in whenever you want," he said. "That's the way we kind of are down the shore here. … If we did it all year, I think it would've gotten a little out of hand at times."

Gaudreau ultimately opted to sign a seven-year, $68.25-million pact with the Blue Jackets. The 28-year-old said he was surprised by how much his decision shocked the hockey world and by the negative reaction from some Flames fans.

"I didn’t think I was gonna get it as bad as I have," he said. "I obviously thought there was gonna be some fans not happy, but I didn't think I was gonna hear about it as much as I have.

"I get it, they're a very passionate fanbase … they love their Flames, and the city of Calgary loves hockey. I understand it's been hard on a lot of people, but I still love that place. … It sucks having to leave. I wish them all the best, and hopefully, they can get over it soon here."

The talented playmaker had a spectacular end to his tenure north of the border thanks to a stunning 2021-22 campaign that saw him crack the 40-goal mark for the first time in his career. Among Calgary's single-season records, his 75 assists and 115 points this past campaign both rank second in team history.

Gaudreau sits fifth all-time in the Flames' record books with 609 points in 602 games.

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