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Adam Gaudette, above, wants to model his game on Boston Bruins great Patrice Bergeron, a centre he looked up to while growing up in Massachusetts.
Adam Gaudette celebrates his 12th goal of the season against New York Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov in March.
Nate Schmidt of the Vegas Golden Knights smiles after scoring a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during a February 2018 NHL game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Pride drives Adam Gaudette. That much is clear. He wants to be a better, all-around hockey player.
And, yes, as much as he didn’t necessarily want to talk about it directly on Tuesday, he does have some serious dollar-sign incentives in front of him this coming season.
The quick, 24-year-old Canucks centre signed a one-year contract on Monday. As a 10.2(c) restricted free agent, he didn’t have many options. Because of how the collective bargaining agreement counts, his years of service — he’s only got two professional years under his belt, even if he has technically skated in three seasons — he couldn’t opt for arbitration.
And he wasn’t eligible for an offer sheet from another team, either.
Even after putting up 33 points in 59 games — a better scoring rate, it should be noted, than Jake Virtanen, who is expected to land a deal three times the $950,000 Gaudette’s new deal is worth — he just didn’t have much leverage because of his contract status.
Next summer, however, Gaudette could have plenty. He can go to arbitration and would be eligible to be offer-sheeted, though he does seem an unlikely candidate for the latter.
Gaudette knows that a big year on the ice would lead to a bigger paycheque, but he also says he doesn’t much want to talk about it.
“A guy like me, every year is a ‘bet on himself’ year,” he said.
What he’s really focused on, though, is making himself a better hockey player, a guy who is looked to in crucial moments by Travis Green and his coaching staff.
“I want to be one of the guys out there and playing,” he said Tuesday on a media Zoom session. “I want to be relied on more.”
Good performances that will snowball into more opportunities is his mentality.
“It’s about having faith in myself to improve in the year and earn an upgrade in years to come,” he said. “I’ve always been somebody who’s trusted myself and trusted my work and be ready for what’s to come … It’s about every day. I’m not going to get a big contract from the first game.”
Gaudette has a model player he’d like to become: Patrice Bergeron. That’s the highest of aims, but given Gaudette grew up watching the Bruins great you can understand why Bergeron is his inspiration.
Bergeron has long been held up as the standard as the ideal two-way centre, a player who makes a difference on offence while also being next to impossible to beat when he’s playing in his own end.
Gaudette has shown himself to be a handy player on offence, but readily admits he needs to be better in his own end.
“Absolutely, I always think there’s room to improve in every aspect,” he said. He’s working hard to gain strength and speed in his off-season workouts.
Those will make a big difference in both the areas he’s already doing well at and also in the areas that need work.
“I think the offensive game came a little quicker than the defensive side,” he said. “I’ve got to get better on faceoffs as well.”
The philosophy underpinning his route to improve is simple, he said.
“It’s the same game at each end. It’s just a big battle.”
Gaudette also had praise for former assistant coach Manny Malhotra, who has moved to the Toronto Maple Leafs this off-season. Malhotra worked with the team’s faceoff men and, among many other duties, would also work with young players on their decision making.
“He was awesome,” Gaudette said of Malhotra. “I don’t think I’d be in the spot where I am without his guidance … I loved working with him. It’s going to be tough.
“He was one of my favourite coaches I’ve ever worked with. He kept it simple there was no bull**** with him … I’ll definitely miss Manny and I wish him the best.”
Gaudette will wear Pavel Bure’s old No. 96 in the new season.
He grinned when asked about how it all went down. He and Nate Schmidt, who is taking over No. 88, share the same agent in Matt Keator, and Keator called Gaudette last week after the defenceman was traded to the Canucks by the Vegas Golden Knights to let him know that Schmidt was interested in taking on the sweater number, which he wore both in Vegas and Washington.
Gaudette wore No. 8 in the past but when he joined the Canucks in 2018, Chris Tanev was already sporting that number. Initially Gaudette was going to switch to 8 with the Canucks, but then Jordie Benn came calling about it.
Benn wore No. 4 in 2019-20 for the Canucks, but had worn No. 8 in the past and asked Gaudette if he could have the number.
The centre wouldn’t reveal what he might be getting in compensation from his teammates in exchange for twice yielding his number, but he did suggest it would be clear once the regular season starts.
As for the new number, it was somewhat easy, he said.
“That’s the year I was born. It was the only number left that had personal meaning to me,” he said.
And he pointed out that 88 plus 8 equals 96.
“I guess that works out for me.”
ICE CHIPS: A video game aficionado, Gaudette has been streaming his play over online service Twitch, where he can interact with fans. “I think it’s good to give the fans some inside intel on what our lives are like,” he said.
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