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Gaudreau: I didn't string Flames along in free-agency decision

Kirk Irwin / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Columbus Blue Jackets star Johnny Gaudreau wants Calgary Flames fans to know he didn't mislead his former club before leaving this past summer.

"It was super close," he told Postmedia's Wes Gilbertson. "I know a lot of people thought I was just stringing Calgary along, but no. It was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make. I was sitting there, it was, like, 8 o'clock on the night before free agency, and I was still thinking about re-signing in Calgary.

"So yeah, it was super close. I know that a lot of people won't believe me, but I remember sitting there with my mom and (my wife) Meredith, and it was just really, really hard. I didn't have an answer. I didn't know what to do."

Gaudreau was the 2022 offseason's prized free agent, and he shocked the hockey world by inking an seven-year, $68.25-million deal with the Blue Jackets - a contract below market value for a player of his caliber on a team that no one expected to be in the race.

The Blue Jackets and Flames meet in Columbus on Friday for the first time since Johnny Hockey switched uniforms, and Gaudreau stands by his decision.

"At the end of the day, I felt what was best for me was to play a bit closer to home, to spend a lot more time with my family, see people that I don't get to see a lot throughout the year. And it's been great," Gaudreau said.

Gaudreau racked up 609 points in 602 games across nine seasons with the Flames, including a career-best 115-point showing in 2021-22. The Blue Jackets currently sit last in the Metropolitan Division with a 8-15-2 record, but their top winger leads the club with 28 points in 25 games - a total that would also pace the Flames.

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