Flyers trade away unsettled prospect Gauthier for Ducks’ Drysdale and 2nd-round pick

Cutter Gauthier initially told the Flyers that he wouldn't join them last summer, a year after they drafted him.

United States Cutter Gauthier reacts during the group A match between United States and France at the ice hockey world championship in Tampere, Finland, Sunday, May 21, 2023.

United States Cutter Gauthier reacts during the group A match between United States and France at the ice hockey world championship in Tampere, Finland, Sunday, May 21, 2023. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

The Anaheim Ducks traded defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a second-round pick in 2025 to the Flyers on Monday for high-scoring college left wing Cutter Gauthier, whose unwillingness to sign with Philadelphia catalyzed this swap of highly regarded youngsters.

Flyers general manager Danny Briere said he traded Gauthier, the fifth overall pick in the 2022 draft, because Gauthier wouldn’t sign, train or even communicate with the Flyers. Gauthier refused to meet with Briere and Flyers President of Hockey Operations Keith Jones when they flew to Sweden last month to watch as Gauthier led the U.S. team to the gold medal at the recently completed World Junior Championship.

“It was a long time coming,” Briere said. “It’s been going on for a while. We tried to give him space. We tried to get in touch with him many times. He would not communicate … so at some point, we had to make a decision, and we thought with what happened just a few days ago, this was probably the time to get the highest value.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Gauthier initially told the Flyers that he wouldn’t join them last summer, a year after they drafted him. Briere said he purposely didn’t announce Gauthier’s reluctance or comment publicly on his increasingly awkward relationship with Philly’s top prospect.

“It was to try to protect the kid,” Briere said. “We were hoping that at some point he would change his mind. He had already changed his mind. He looked at us at the draft and told us he was built to be a Flyer, wanted to be a Flyer, and then a few months later, told us that he didn’t want to be a Flyer, didn’t want to play for the Flyers.

“So in our mind at first, we said, ‘We have to protect him, because if he changes his mind again, it’s going to be tough for him to put the uniform on.’ But when we realized that he refused to talk to us now, it’s been months and he didn’t want to be a Flyer, didn’t want to be in Philadelphia, it was time to make it happen.”

Asked for his reaction to Gauthier’s disinterest in playing in Philadelphia, Flyers coach John Tortorella said, “Then, we don’t want you.”

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Ducks general manager Pat Verbeek said he has spoken to Gauthier, who “was really excited when I talked to him, so that made me very, very happy.”

The Ducks have a wealth of talented young defensemen in their system, including the Defenseman of the Year in all three Canadian major junior leagues.

“It’s such a good deal for us,” Tortorella said of getting Drysdale after Philadelphia’s 4-1 loss to the Penguins on Monday night. “In the process we’re at right now, it’s perfect timing. Really excited.”

Verbeek used one of his top blue-line talents to boost the Ducks, who have scored the NHL’s second-fewest goals over the past three seasons.

“We do not have a player like this in our prospect pool,” Verbeek said of Gauthier. “He has obviously top-six (forward) talent. He’s a gifted skater. For me, he has elite skating ability. He’s got an elite NHL shot already, and he’s a goal-scorer. He likes to shoot the puck, and based on some of the players that we have up front, I think he’s going to complement them really well.”

Verbeek said Gauthier will finish his sophomore year at Boston College before the Ducks “circle back with him when the season is over” to determine his next step.

The 21-year-old Drysdale was the sixth overall pick in the 2020 draft by Anaheim, and he has grown into a puck-moving defenseman who had 32 points during his first full NHL season in 2021-22. After missing nearly all of last season due to injury and getting a late start to this season because of another injury, Drysdale has one goal and four assists in 10 games for Anaheim.

“I really like Jamie Drysdale as a player,” Verbeek said. ”(But) I had to look at our overall group, and I think based on all the 18 one-goal games we’ve lost this year, I wanted to give the group someone that could help us get over the hump.”

Gauthier was outstanding at the World Junior Championship, tying for the tournament lead with 12 points and scoring the game-winning goal in the third period of the semifinal match. He also has 23 points in just 17 games this season for Boston College after getting 37 points in 32 games last season as a freshman for the Eagles.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal