COLUMBUS, Ohio — This will go down as one of the most memorable days in franchise history, when the Blue Jackets not only landed the biggest name in this year’s free agent crop, but also maybe when the rest of the NHL started to see the city in a different light.

Johnny Gaudreau had his pick of NHL clubs, from major metropolitan markets to hockey-loving Canadian cities. The highly skilled left-winger, who just finished a 115-point season, could have had a bigger paycheck staying with the only NHL club he’s ever known, the Calgary Flames.

But in a move that stunned hockey fans everywhere — especially those in Central Ohio — Gaudreau, 28, picked the Blue Jackets to spend the best of his career, signing a seven-year, 68-year contract on Wednesday. .25 million with Columbus. The deal will earn Gaudreau $9.75 million each season, which is also the cap reached. Gaudreau also has a no-move clause for the first four years, then a limited no-trade clause for the last three years.

Why did Gaudreau choose Columbus? How did the Blue Jackets, who never made it past the second round of the playoffs, land one of the NHL’s star players?

Gaudreau said the Blue Jackets were on his roster before free agency opened, based on experiences he had at Nationwide Arena and conversations he had with the current Blue Jackets and elders, who were delighted.

“I had never been to Columbus before coming to the NHL, so when I started playing there, I didn’t know what I was getting into, and I was just… ‘Wow! ‘” Gaudreau told The Athletic by phone. late Wednesday. “They’ve always had big crowds, really into the game. So I thought, ‘This looks like a really fun place to play.’