By refusing to speak to them in recent months, young Cutter Gauthier may have done the Philadelphia Flyers a favor.
His intransigence forced general manager Daniel Brière to quickly exchange him to maximize his return on investment, instead of waiting a few years and finding himself with his mouth in the water.
Brière, as we recall, obtained on Monday young defender Jamie Drysdale, sixth overall pick in 2020, and a second round pick in 2025 for his college power forward Cutter Gauthier.
High picks from the NCAA have no interest in thumbing their noses at the club that drafted them. They must wait three or four years (depending on the case) of college before obtaining complete autonomy. By virtue of their status as a top prospect, they have much earlier NHL aspirations than a player chosen in a later round.
Gauthier becomes the third player drafted in the top five to do so in twenty years. In the other two cases, the teams did not take advantage of favorable transactions like the one the Flyers had at first glance on Tuesday.
Blake Wheeler was drafted fifth overall by the Arizona Coyotes in 2004. He refused to join the Coyotes, then a moribund organization, to sign a contract with the Boston Bruins.
The Coyotes received a second-round compensatory pick, 35th overall, in 2008 for the loss of Wheeler. Then-GM Don Maloney used that pick to move up from 39th overall with their own second-round pick to 28th overall and draft forward Viktor Tikhonov. He played briefly in the National League, but spent the majority of his career in the KHL.
Drafted third overall in 2005 behind Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan, defenseman Jack Johnson indicated to the Carolina Hurricanes his intention to play elsewhere.
Then-general manager Jim Rutherford, now president of the Vancouver Canucks, traded him quickly, but opted for short-term reinforcement. He got veterans Tim Gleason and Eric Bélanger from the Los Angeles Kings in return.
Bélanger was traded the same year for Josef Vasicek. He provided good service to the Hurricanes in a support role. Just like Gleason, a defender with a defensive nature. Johnson never became the offensive defenseman hoped for, but he was a top player for several years and is still active 18 years later.
Kevin Hayes also left the Chicago Blackhawks in 2014 to sign a contract with the New York Rangers. But he was drafted a little further down, at 24th overall. The Hawks also received a second-round compensatory pick, at No. 54, for the loss of Hayes. They drafted a certain Graham Knott, barely at ECHL level.
This NHL veteran was invited by the Flyers, of which he was a member, to take Cutter Gauthier to play golf with him in the weeks following the 2022 draft to promote his integration into the organization. Hayes, like Gauthier, played for Boston College.
Hayes was traded to the St. Louis Blues last summer, in part to free up payroll, but also, more importantly, because of his stormy relationship with coach John Tortorella. Hayes vehemently denied any involvement in the story. He says he was the victim of death threats and threats against his family. One would even have pushed the cruelty to the point of rejoicing at the tragic death of his brother.
Eric Lindros skipped the Nordiques to move to the Flyers in 1992. But refusing to play in Philadelphia? Daniel Brière says he has never heard a player speak ill of his organization. This is why the Flyers took the news like a resounding slap in the face, which we haven’t heard the end of in Philadelphia.
This is also why the CEO of the team, Daniel J. Hilferty, 67, even promised a very hostile reception to Cutter Gauthier when he played his matches in Philadelphia. You really have to be touched with pride to make a statement like that to a 19 year old boy, whether he is in the wrong or not.
Drysdale will play his first game in his new uniform Wednesday night in Philadelphia against the Canadian. This 21-year-old defender has been hit by injuries for a year, to the point of playing only 18 matches since the start of the 2022 season. But his potential, especially offensive, is beyond doubt. It’s about time we started talking more about him in Philadelphia, and a little less about the black sheep…
Like Cutter Gauthier, defenseman Adam Fox thumbed his nose at his organization, the Calgary Flames a few years ago. The Flames traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes along with Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton in exchange for Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin, but the scenario repeated itself.
The Hurricanes had to trade Fox to the Rangers, the only place the young man wanted to play, for two second-round picks. They already have nothing left from this transaction, since the players drafted by Carolina returned to Europe after an inconclusive experience in the American League. Fox won the Norris Trophy as the Outstanding Defenseman in 2021.
Fox’s case, like that of Mike Reilly, Jimmy Vesey, Alex Kerfoot, Justin Schultz or Will Butcher, differs from that of Gauthier, because they were drafted in later rounds. They didn’t aspire to the NHL quickly and could afford to let things drag on before enjoying full autonomy. Some of them were even disdained at the start of their career and chose, after developing late, to change organization.