COLUMBUS, Ohio — It will go down as one of the crucial memorable days in franchise historical past, the second when the Blue Jackets landed not solely the largest title on this 12 months’s free agent crop but additionally maybe when the remainder of the NHL started to see the town in a special mild.

Johnny Gaudreau had his choose amongst NHL golf equipment, from main metropolitan markets to hockey-crazed Canadian cities. The extremely expert left winger, coming off a 115-point season, may have had a much bigger payday by staying with the one NHL membership he’s ever recognized, the Calgary Flames.

But in a transfer that surprised hockey followers in all places — particularly these in central Ohio — Gaudreau, 28, selected the Blue Jackets to spend the prime of his profession, signing a seven-year, $68.25 million contract with Columbus on Wednesday. The deal can pay Gaudreau $9.75 million every season, which can be the cap hit. Gaudreau additionally has a no-move clause for the primary 4 years, then a restricted no-trade clause within the remaining three years.

Why did Gaudreau choose Columbus? How did the Blue Jackets, who’ve by no means superior previous the second spherical of the playoffs, land one of many NHL’s star gamers?

Gaudreau mentioned the Blue Jackets had been on his listing earlier than the free company interval opened, primarily based on the experiences he’s had enjoying in Nationwide Arena and on conversations he’s had with present and former Blue Jackets, who raved about it.

“I’d never been to Columbus before until I made it to the NHL, so when I started playing there I didn’t know what I was walking into, and I was just … ‘Wow!’” Gaudreau instructed The Athletic by cellphone late Wednesday. “They’ve all the time had nice crowds, actually into the sport. I mentioned to myself then, ‘This looks like a really fun place to play.’

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