Julien Gauthier is the New York Rangers enigma. He’s got all the tools to be a solid NHL player but doesn’t use them enough to justify having him in the lineup. Gauthier is a 6’4, 230 lbs winger with the speed to play at the NHL level and a shot that seems like it would be rebuffed by a stuffed animal at times. It leads to the question, why couldn’t he stick at the NHL level in New York?
With the 25-year-old Quebecois winger being assigned to the Hartford Wolf Pack in the AHL earlier this month, the future for the former Carolina Hurricane remains uncertain. Gauthier’s options are very limited in his position. He’s a restricted free agent when his deal expires at the end of the year which means he’s not got control of his own future at this point.
He is eligible for arbitration. If you are new to hockey and/or do not know what arbitration is, Gauthier can file a case to go in front of an arbitrator and dispute his contractual status with the New York Rangers. Gauthier would get a contract awarded to him regardless of the Rangers’ objections if it is less than a certain amount. This last season, it was $4 million. Gauthier won’t make that much so he’ll likely get a new deal if he wants one.
He could hope the New York Rangers do not qualify him. That would make the big winger an unrestricted free agent and it would allow him to seek a place on other rosters in the NHL or overseas. That’s a lot of hoping though that the Rangers neglect to qualify Gauthier in his final year of restricted free-agency status. At just 25, it’s unlikely to see the Rangers opt to let the former 21st overall pick back in 2016.
Gauthier requested a trade away from the Rangers back in July as he wants a fresh start with a new organization. If that trade is going to occur, it won’t be in exchange for anything of note I would not have thought. Whether or not he is dealt out of the organization is an entirely different question. Seeing as he wants out, you have to imagine the management trying to facilitate it if possible.
It’s likely we see Gauthier come back up to the NHL at some point this year assuming he does stay with the organization due to the Rangers losing Dryden Hunt on waivers. He’s a good depth option who can play at the NHL level and Gauthier is still a serviceable 13th or 14th forward. He needs to improve if he wants to be an everyday player in the best league in the world.