The Flyers were in the middle of the first period, already down 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Penguins via a Rickard Rakell powerplay goal. Once the trade broke, the press row buzzed. If the situation were a meme, it was Charlie Kelly in the mailroom connecting the dots to his Pepe Silvia investigation.
Then, Erik Karlsson extended the lead, 2-0, in favor of the Penguins. In the moment, Philadelphia went down two goals to their in-state, bitter rivals, and even that seemed like background noise to everything transpiring about Gauthier.
We all witnessed and heard most of the same. Gauthier allegedly went out of his way to confidently cut through an inner circle around John Tortorella to introduce himself. During the 2022-2023 exit interviews, Daniel Briere mentioned how Gauthier elected to refrain from the Flyers’ offseason camps. That red flag showed itself immediately, and Travis Sanheim confirmed how the locker room noticed:
“I hadn’t talked to him [Gauthier]. The only thing that I heard was the development [camp], not wanting to be there. Obviously, as a player in this locker room, that was something that stayed with us. For as long as I know, you show up to development camp whether you skate or not. If he doesn’t want to be here, we’re happy to move on, and get the pieces that we did.”Travis Sanheim; 1//8/2024
Gauthier didn’t want to play for the team that invited him into the NHL via the fifth overall pick at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Briere was very transparent, and that’s a credit to the new regime in Philadelphia for looking into the camera and telling their fanbase what they knew, what their strategy was, how they handled the transaction, and their logic behind making their decision. At the 2024 IIHF World Juniors, Gauthier was the best forward. After his performance at the IIHF World Juniors, there wouldn’t be a better time to trade him, especially when Gauthier and his representation went radio silent on the Flyers. Considering the context, the return was exceptional.
We’re led to believe that Gauthier was happy to be drafted by Philadelphia. On the ‘Empty Netters’ podcast, he detailed a story about how he introduced himself to Tortorella:
“This past summer at development camp. Everyone’s just walking right by him [Tortorella], he’s talking to like a couple other staff members, or whatever it may be. I move the staff member guy out of the way and like, I was like, ‘Hey, Cutter Gauthier. It’s really nice to meet you. I’m looking forward to playing for you soon.’ He’s like, ‘Fuck yeah, I love that shit! It’s great to meet you, too! I was sitting there like, ‘It’s nice to meet you too.’ I’m glad you’re that pumped to meet me. Alright, sweet. Let’s do it. Let’s go.”Cutter Gauthier; 4/24/2023
At the 2022 Flyers Development Camp, Gauthier had this interaction with Tortorella. He didn’t have it at the 2023 Flyers Development Camp; Gauthier was a no-show. The glaring difference between the two development camps was the regime, where he showed up when Chuck Fletcher was the general manager in Philadelphia but not Briere.
Did Fletcher think Gauthier would turn professional in an earlier timeline? If that’s the idea planted, Gauthier might’ve grown frustrated when the direction and plan shifted under Briere. Some will argue that he is overdue for his NHL recall. Others, especially after a glowing performance at the 2024 IIHF World Juniors, looked forward to his arrival once his final stretch of development finished.
Last night, every bit of uneasiness from the 2022-2023 exit interviews swam back to the surface.
2023 Flyers Development Camp
Sanheim didn’t mince words with his statement. Briere mentioned Gauthier wouldn’t be at the 2023 Flyers Development Camp, a red flag:
“We told him about our vision and what we see moving forward, and he had a discussion with his advisor and family, and they decided that it was better for him to go back for another year, which I really don’t have a problem with. I think it’s going to give him the chance to hopefully be even more dominant than he was this year.”Daniel Briere; 4/17/2023
Using what we’ve learned, it’s fair to assume that once Philadelphia shared its plan and vision with Gauthier, it was the moment he chose not to buy in, deciding to cease all communications with the franchise. Once it was understood by the Flyers that Gauthier didn’t have intentions of communicating, Briere pulled the trigger with a suitable partner in the Ducks. He did right by the player and by his team, keeping the locker room and culture sound while providing the new scenery a top prospect demanded before debuting.
If Fletcher were the brains behind this operation, you could bet that the return would’ve been strained. Acquiring Drysdale and a 2025 second-round pick for a player who, for eight months, had no intentions of signing a contract is remarkable. A premium position, RD, was addressed. Now, Philadelphia has a potential high-end talent on the back end with an entire career ahead of him.
Thanks are in order. An entity that deserves a huge thank you is his agency, KO Sports, for keeping details close about a desire for a trade from Gauthier. KO Sports could’ve sounded off, and it would’ve hurt the leverage the Flyers had in negotiations, but the lips were sealed.
“I have to thank all the other teams involved, the teams that called us about him [Gauthier] to keep it on the down low; to keep it secret just in case he changed his mind again. But we realized, especially when Jamie’s [Drysdale] name came up, this was a pretty special player, we felt. The chance to add him doesn’t come very often.”Daniel Briere; 1/8/2024
Without hesitation, Briere believes strongly that Drysdale can be a measure of high-end talent. In addition to a quality draft pick, Philadelphia lost a top offensive prospect but didn’t sacrifice assets.
Keith Jones spelled out the message:
“He [Gauthier] didn’t want to be a Flyer. So, we had to come up with a plan, and fortunately, we were able to execute on that plan. His value would never be higher than it was after the World Junior Championships. It was only going to decrease if the word got out there. I have to give a lot of credit to the people we were negotiating with that they kept this quiet. It could’ve became a much more difficult situation, so the other general managers, [and] presidents around the league were outstanding in keeping this a private matter. You don’t want to be a Flyer, you’re not going to be a Flyer, and we were very pleased in the return that we got.”Keith Jones; 1/8/2024
All season, it’s been the Flyers against everyone. Drysdale joins the fight, and Gauthier becomes an opponent.
(Photo by Lawrence Iles/Icon Sportswire)