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It's been five days since Johnny Gaudreau shocked the hockey world with a surprise move to the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency, but Calgary Flames fans are still struggling with their new reality.
In an effort to ease their pain and explain his unexpected decision to join the Blue Jackets, Gaudreau poured his heart out in an article published to The Players' Tribune on Wednesday.
"To my Flames Family, I hope you can understand my decision more after reading this letter," he wrote. "I appreciate how much you wanted me to stay and I hope you can see how hard this decision was for me."
The 28-year-old explained how important family was in his decision to move out of Alberta and closer to his hometown of Salem, New Jersey.
"As much as I love hockey … family is everything to me. It’s the most important connection I have," Gaudreau wrote. "And a few years ago, I think I started to realize how much you sacrifice when you give 100 percent to your career. I felt like I needed to do more to center my family in my life after we experienced some hard times."
Gaudreau mentioned how his father's heart attack in 2018 made him realize how little time he'd been able to spend around his loved ones since he entered the NHL in 2014. His wife, Meredith, who is expecting the couple's first child, is also from the Jersey Shore area.
"As much as we both love Calgary, I think Meredith and I just felt that it was going to be very hard to continue living as far away from our families as we’ve been living — especially as we’re starting a family of our own," he wrote.
Gaudreau also admitted his decision to leave Calgary came down to the wire, and he still considered returning to the Flames as he weighed his options one last time.
"For what it’s worth, I didn’t know for sure what I wanted to do up until the last hours of the last day," he wrote. "Man, even after I turned down the eight-year deal from Calgary, I still thought about going back and trying to work on a seven-year deal to stay. It was all on the table for the entire process."
Gaudreau was selected by the Flames with the 104th overall pick of the 2011 NHL Draft and first broke into the league in the 2013-14 season after starring at Boston College for three years. In 602 career NHL games, the 5-foot-9 winger has scored 210 goals and registered 399 assists for 609 points.
On July 15, he signed a seven-year, $68.25 million deal with Columbus, with an average annual value of $9.75 million. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported that Gaudreau turned down Calgary's offer of an eight-year, $84 million deal, leaving around $15 million on the table to sign with the Blue Jackets.
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