Why did Flyers trade Cutter Gauthier? Philly brass claims top prospect’s refusal to sign with team led to Ducks deal

Just a few days ago, Flyers fans were salivating while watching top prospect Cutter Gauthier win gold with Team USA at the 2024 World Juniors.The No. 5 pick from 2022 balled out at the competition, finishing tied for the tournament lead in points while earning Best Forward honors.

The current Boston College forward gave Philadelphia fans a sneak peek of what to expect once he made the jump to the NHL. Flash forward to now, and when Gauthier does make his NHL debut, it won’t be in the Flyers’ orange and black.

Instead, Gauthier finds himself as public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia. 

The Flyers and Ducks stunned the hockey world Monday night, as Anaheim traded for Gauthier from Philadelphia for defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a 2025 second-round pick. It ended Gauthier’s time in Philadelphia before he even signed his entry-level contract. 

While prospects are traded frequently in the league, it’s rare to see two high-end young talents swapped for each other. The most recent example is the 2017 trade between the Canadiens and Lightning that saw Mikhail Sergachev moved from Montreal to Tampa Bay for Jonathan Drouin. 

MORE: Cutter Gauthier, USA defeat Sweden for 2024 World Juniors gold

Why exactly did the Flyers trade Gauthier? The Sporting News explains:

Why did the Flyers trade Cutter Gauthier?

Here is where the drama begins.

If it was up to the Flyers, they would have never moved Gauthier. However, the prospect put the team in a vulnerable position in which a deal had to be made. 

Flyers general manager Danny Briere addressed the trade yesterday shortly after it was made official. He stated that after the IIHF World Championships in May of last year, Gauthier informed the team that he would not be interested in signing with the club despite being less than a year removed from being selected by the team at the 2022 draft. 

“Looked at us at the draft, and told us he was built to be a Flyer, wanted to be a Flyer,” Briere said. “Maybe few months later told us he didn’t want to be a Flyer.”

Briere explained that the team held onto the hope that Gauthier would “change his mind” like he did before; however, that switch never came. 

“When we realized that they refused to talk to us, now it’s been months, and he didn’t want to be a Flyer and didn’t want to be in Philadelphia, it was time to make [a trade] happen,” Briere said. 

The Flyers GM explained that he, along with some of the other front office staff, flew out to Sweden to watch Gauthier with the United States World Juniors team at the U20 tournament. They were holding out hope to get a meeting with the draft pick to give their pitch for him to change his mind. That conversation never came to fruition, as Gauthier’s side ghosted the Flyers. 

MORE: Who are the highest-paid players in the 2023-24 NHL season?

“We tried to get in touch with him many times. They would not communicate as far as the Gauthier side,” Briere said. 

Briere’s statements would have been enough under the circumstances, but the entire Philadelphia organization came out guns blazing on Monday night.

Flyers head coach John Tortorella, president of hockey ops Keith Jones, and team governor Dan Hilferty all gave their two cents on the matter, with the consistent theme of, “If you don’t want to be here, then you won’t be here.”

“I don’t know Cutter from a hole in a wall,” Tortorella said when asked about a supposed previous meeting with Gauthier. “I’m not too interested in talking about him. I’d rather talk about Jamie [Drysdale]. He’s the guy that’s coming here.”

“You don’t want to be a Flyer, you’re not going to be a Flyer,” Jones said. “We were very pleased in the return that we got.” 

“I feel bad for Cutter… well I don’t really feel bad for Cutter when he comes to Philadelphia,” Hilferty said. “It’s gonna be a rough ride here, and he earned it. We’re Philadelphians, and we want people who want to be here with us.”

Even players on the Flyers admitted that Gauthier’s actions behind the scenes were noticed by the team, according to defenseman Travis Sanheim. Gauthier did not attend Flyers development camp this past summer, which was a big red flag for members in the locker room. 

It’s not uncommon for college hockey players to dictate where they want to play. Adam Fox, Jimmy Vesey, and Kevin Hayes are all examples of players who refused to sign with the team that drafted them. They all held out until they became college free agents at the end of three years, giving them options to decide which NHL club to sign with. 

Speaking of Hayes, his name was brought up as a potential pot-stirrer in this whole situation. Hayes’ relationship with Tortorella and the Flyers has been rocky at best, as he was shipped to the Blues this summer. Crossing Broad’s Anthony SanFilippo reported that he heard from someone in the organization that “Hayes’ fingerprints are all over” the Gauthier drama. 

Hayes has since come out and denied the claims, stating that he had nothing to do with influencing Gauthier’s decision. 

“I have never said a negative thing about Torts or the organization to him in my life,” Hayes said, according to PHLY Sports’ Charlie O’Connor. 

Neither Gauthier nor his camp have said anything on the ordeal, leaving Flyers and hockey fans questioning exactly why the BC product would not want to come to Philadelphia. The Flyers themselves admitted they are not sure of the exact reasoning behind Gauthier’s actions, so until we hear it from the source himself, it will be up in the air. 

Flyers-Ducks trade details

  • Ducks get: F Cutter Gauthier
  • Flyers get: D Jamie Drysdale, 2025 2nd-round pick

Looking at the deal strictly from a hockey perspective, it’s a win-win for both sides. 

The Flyers find themselves in a position that they did not expect to be in before the season — in playoff contention. Philadelphia is fourth in the Metro Division at the time of the deal, and adding a puck mover like Drysdale allows them to create more offense from the blue line. 

Drysdale has been hit with the injury bug often in his short NHL career. He missed a majority of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, and he’s skated in just 10 games this year. However, when healthy, the 21-year-old projects to be a top-pairing, right-handed defenseman who is an excellent puck transporter and can run a power play from the point. 

While Gauthier could very well have signed at the end of Boston College’s season, Drysdale helps the Flyers out now. While he might not be picture-perfect for a John Tortorella defense-first system, the No. 6 pick from 2020 is the kind of offensive threat/power play QB on the back end that every contending squad needs. 

For Anaheim, the club adds a certified sniper to its coveted group of prospects. Gauthier is coming off 12 points in seven games at the World Juniors. At the college level, the sophomore forward finished first for BC in goals (16) and points (37) last year in 32 games. This year, Gauthier again leads the team in goals (13) and is tied for second in points (23) in 17 contests. 

The Ducks are overflowing with young talent at forward, bringing in Gauthier to join a youth movement that includes Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish, and Leo Carlsson. While there is a bit of a logjam at center, plenty of the forwards also can play wing, giving the team a bit of flexibility. 

On the blue line, the decision to move Drysdale could not have been an easy one. However, with the emergence of 20-year-old Pavel Mintyukov this year, in addition to top prospects Olen Zellweger and Tristan Luneau waiting in the wings, at least one of the D-men was going to become expendable. It just so happens to be Drysdale, who has the most NHL experience of the bunch and can help the Flyers immediately. 

Source : ESPN.com

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