February 22, 2024

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NHL Trade Grades: Ducks land cutter Gauthier and Jamie Drysdale head to Flyers

NHL Trade Grades: Ducks land cutter Gauthier and Jamie Drysdale head to Flyers

Written by Corey Bronman, Sheena Goldman, and Eric Duhacek

The Anaheim Ducks get: Forward cutter Gauthier

Philadelphia Flyers get: Defenseman Jimmy Drysdale, 2025 second-round pick

Corey Bronman: The main sub-context of this deal is that Gauthier indicated he did not want to sign with the Flyers months ago. The World Juniors had the turning point where it became clear that a trade might need to happen after they couldn't meet him.

Gauthier is one of the top prospects who could be a power forward. He's a 6-foot-3 midfielder who can skate, is extremely skilled and has a high-caliber shot. There was debate for a few years about whether Gauthier was a center or a winger in the NHL due to minor concerns about his hockey sense. He was the USA's top finisher at the most recent World Junior Championships and one of the best overall players at the tournament. In Anaheim, he will likely play on the wing alongside someone like Leo Karlsson or Mason McTavish. This gives Anaheim a lethal young group of forwards to build around as they try to emerge from the rebuilding process.

Anaheim has had a bit of a quandary with its young defensemen as well. Pavel Mentyukov looked excellent as a teenager in the NHL. He would compete with Jimmy Drysdale down the stretch for power play time. The same goes for upcoming prospects Olin Zellweger and Tristan Luhnow. Drysdale is much better than the latter two, but they are all legitimately attack-minded and there is only so much time on the power play. Anaheim acted from a position of strength in this regard. They have to figure out what their blue line looks like for the future, and in the defense-heavy 2024 NHL Draft, they could go for a defense with their first pick because the current group doesn't look like a contender's core. Ideally, they would add a big two-way defenseman.

Gauthier is a great player, but Drysdale is not a much inferior prospect (especially if Gauthier is a long-term winger, and coincidentally in their press release Anaheim announced him as a left winger), he has been injured a lot with only 18 NHL games played since the 2022 season. At the top of his game, he looked like the best defensive duo prospect in the NHL due to his elite skating combined with his solid ability to move the puck despite not being that big. When he's as healthy as he has been the last few weeks, he looks like a minutes-eating defenseman. It's easy to forget how good he looked as a teenager a few years ago in the Ducks organization.

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The Ducks get the better player of the two currently, but given the circumstances, Drysdale is still a very good long-term piece for a Flyers team that lacks a top young outfielder of his caliber. He was, for example, ahead of defenseman Cam York on the team long-term. He just needs to stay healthy

Duck row: a-
Publications grade: B-

Sheena Goldman: It's easy to view this as a loss for the Flyers — they are losing their best player in the deal, after all. And the recent world junior hype doesn't help now either, since it's so fresh in everyone's mind just how great Gaultier is. Management likely envisioned the 2022 No. 5 pick as a cornerstone of the rebuilding process. But that can't be out of the question if the player doesn't want to sign there. The second thing is well known, and it is very clear that if it is formed, Philadelphia will lose a lot of influence. So it's less than ideal from start to finish for them.

The bright side is that management doesn't leave with anything here. Sure, they were the losers in the trade, but it could have been worse – they could have lost him for nothing when his draft rights expired, or been taken outright and that's not what happened here. A second-round pick is valuable to a rebuilding team like the Flyers, as is Drysdale.

Drysdale hasn't really blossomed at the NHL level yet, and injuries have a lot to do with it. But there is still untapped potential here for the 21-year-old – someone who can develop into a top-four defenseman. If he can stay healthy, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him complement the defensive elements of his game that need work under John Tortorella and Brad Shaw. In the meantime, he can bring some strength that the Flyers need right now. Philadelphia's power play has been a disaster this season, so it doesn't hurt to bring in someone who can jump in as a quarterback on the top unit and perhaps add a spark.

Jimmy Drysdale has yet to flourish at the NHL level with Anaheim. (Sean M. Havey/Getty Images)

Even with some positives for the Flyers here, the Ducks are the winners in this trade. There have been some questions about whether Trevor Zegras could be it the The guy in Anaheim, who is more focused on the front group around him. Along with Zegras, Troy Terry and Mason McTavish, this team has now added Leo Carlsson and Gauthier to the fold over the past year. There is a plethora of young talent still up front that could help the Ducks get back into impact form soon, and stay there for a long time.

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Given what they have in their pipeline on the back end — including Pavel Mentyukov who is playing at the NHL level this season, Olin Zellweger, and Tristan Luneau — management can afford to move Drysdale. Pat Verbeek used an area where they had a surplus of talent to further complement the attacking group. So the defense may now be less inspiring in Anaheim without him for the foreseeable future, with their eyes on the big picture this trade helps support. It's a brave move, but it's a manager in Verbeek's shoes He should Swinging to. A rebuild hinges on difference-making talent, and this brings in a player with a lot of potential to become one.

Duck row: a
Publications grade: B

Eric Duhacek: So, this is serious blockbuster stuff, the kind you don't see very often in the NHL. Two young players, with a chance to become stars in the league, were traded for each other. But there were whispers, in the GM community last week, that the Flyers might have a hard time signing Gauthier, even though they would have owned his rights for a long time before losing him as a free agent. But GM Daniel Briere is anything but bold, and this is a bold move, as he faces a potential problem before it becomes one.

From Anaheim's perspective, the deal makes a lot of sense. Organizationally, the organization was overwhelmed by defensive prospects. Last year, the Ducks had the best defenseman in each of Canada's major junior leagues – Olin Zellweger in the WHL, Tristan Lenot in Quebec, and Pavel Mentyukov in Ontario. Of the three, only Mentyukov has seen regular NHL duty this season, but the Ducks trusted him to play the top of the power play unit until Drysdale returned from the core muscle injury he suffered in just the second game of the season, which caused him to miss 29 games. Match overall. It should be noted that Drysdale also missed most of last season, as he recovered from shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum, which limited him to just eight games. That means he's seen limited action at the NHL level over the past two years, or since he recorded 32 points in 81 games as an NHL sophomore in 2021-22 — excellent results for a player who was a teenager starting that season.

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So, his upside is high – he's likely a No. 1 defenseman in the making, a dynamic talent from the blue line, has great hockey sense, and is very good at knowing when to pinch and when to step back. In addition to those three, the Ducks also had at their disposal Jackson Lacombe, who joined the organization after playing last year for the University of Minnesota, and played most of the season in the NHL, until he was sent to the minors just last week.

That means they have the blue-line depth to play for Gauthier, the fifth player selected in the 2022 draft, the same player the Ducks took Mentyukov with at No. 10 overall. It should be a nice complement to an emerging group of youngsters. Anaheim's forward lineup includes Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Leo Karlsson, the No. 2 overall pick last June, who is now out with injury. It's a tremendous group of young forwards to go along with a top-four defensive prospect.

As for the Flyers, they have recently been using Igor Zamula to play their top point guard, a position they should quickly cede to Drysdale. On paper, it looks like a win-win for both organizations. Maybe Ducks GM Pat Verbeek said it best: It's a deal you have to make because a player of Gauthier's pedigree is unavailable, via trade, more often than not. It's also worth noting that the manager who drafted Drysdale for the Ducks, Bob Murray, is now consulting with the Flyers and thus would have provided valuable input.

Duck row: a
Publications grade: B+

(Cutter Gauthier Image: Adam Ihse/TT/AFP)