The NHL free agent experiences for Ryan Getzlaf and Gabriel Landeskog were very different.
Getzlaf had never been through the process, and now at 36 years old he wanted to experience other teams trying to convince him to leave. With his career winding down, going through free agency was an opportunity to see what it was like to be pursued. He had no strong desire to leave the Ducks, he just wanted to see what was out there.
“I’ve never had other teams pursuing me, which was a great feeling,” said Getzlaf after signing a one-year, $4.5 million extension. “I’m not going to lie. It was a good feeling to be able to talk, and I think, for me, it was more understanding what other players go through. There are a lot of players who go through this many times in their career, and I think it gave me a better understanding of what it’s like.”
Landeskog was a different story. Once the youngest captain in NHL history, he did not want to hear from other teams. He wanted to stay with the only franchise he’s ever known. But as unrestricted free agency approached, and with the flat cap ceiling putting a squeeze on teams, there was no guarantee the Avalanche captain would be back.
[NHL Free Agency 2021: Every signing by all 32 teams]
Negotiations, which Landeskog has said hoped would have led to a deal last summer, dragged out, but a $56 million deal was completed close to the deadline for teams to offer the eight-year maximum term to their own players.
Landeskog quickly went from “disappointed” to one “happy” captain.
“For me, the most important thing was term and being able to be here for a long time,” Landeskog said. “That was my goal, and that’s a dream of mine to sign another long-term deal with the Avs. This is my home, and I feel the connection with the city and connection to the fans and the team and obviously my teammates. That’s very important to me, and that’s why I wanted a long-term contract. Even though it took to the last few minutes, it got done and I’m very happy about it.”
No place like home
Ultimately, free agent decisions come down to comfort — for the player, their families, and their careers. Getzlaf and Landeskog have been with their teams long enough to know what their respective markets can provide and how it all fits with their individual lifestyles.
“At this point in my career, being wanted is a great thing,” said Getzlaf, who’s entering his 17th NHL season. “That proves that someone still believes in you and is interested in you, and ultimately that’s what the Anaheim Ducks said to me at the end of the day.”
Greener pastures are always on the horizon, especially in today’s NHL given the spending spree that took place on Wednesday. Getzlaf could have easily chased another Stanley Cup elsewhere on a team looking for a veteran presence. Landeskog could have moved on to a different contending team to try and win there. But sometimes you just cannot beat the comfort of home.
“My heart is in Colorado, Denver is my home,” Landeskog said. “That’s where we put down our roots and that’s where I’ve always wanted to be. So coming down to it, I was very certain about where I wanted to be and my heart was nowhere else. There is no place I would rather be than in Denver and playing for the Avs, so I am very happy that we got it done.”
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.