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Carchidi: Flyers Did the Best They Could, But Rebuild Takes a Hit

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Cutter Gauthier, Philadelphia Flyers, at World Championships (Photo courtesy of IIHF)
Cutter Gauthier was just the type of offensive player that the Philadelphia Flyers needed for their rebuild. Photo: Courtesy of IIHF.

You don’t have to be Scotty Bowman to realize that the Philadelphia Flyers need a major upgrade on offense before they can become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.

That’s what makes the Cutter Gauthier trade to the Anaheim Ducks so disappointing.

Oh, general manager Danny Briere did the best he could, considering he was backed into a corner by the entitled Gauthier and his J.D. Drew antics.

But getting promising defenseman Jamie Drysdale and a second-round pick in 2025 for Gauthier sets the Flyers’ rebuild back – unless Briere can get a first-rounder for Rasmus Ristolainen or Sean Walker, and that player turns into a key offensive piece.

The Flyers seemed to have their ducks (no pun intended) in a row. Gauthier, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound center/left winger with size and speed,  would be here perhaps late this season, and electric forward Matvei Michkov, provided he could leave Russia, would arrive in 2026-27.

By then, the Flyers figured to add a key offensive player through free agency and become a true Cup contender and not just a playoff hopeful.

Little margin for error

Briere could still make it happen, but he now has much less margin for error and really needs to get a high pick for one of his surplus defensemen. Problem is, teams know he must make a move, making it more difficult to get a No. 1 pick that can turn into a future top-six forward, like Gauthier.

The Flyers need snipers, and Gauthier is someone who fit that description. He was going to be one of the answers to their power-play woes, and was going to help them immensely in even-strength play.

Philly got a fairly good return for Gauthier, but it doesn’t mask their problems: an anemic offense.

Entering Wednesday’s game against visiting Montreal, the Flyers are 25th in the NHL in goals scored per game (2.85); they are an admirable No. 7 on defense, allowing 2.78 goals a game.

As for their pipeline, most of the Philadelphia Flyers’ top prosects after Michkov are defensemen or goalies, including goaltenders Alexei Kolosov and Carson Bjarnason, and blue liners Emil Andrae, Oliver Bonk, Ronnie Attard, and Carter Sotheran. And that doesn’t include promising defenseman Egor Zamula, whose lineup spot may be in jeopardy because of the addition of Drysdale.

Aside from the 19-year-old Michkov, the only forwards among the Flyers’ top-10 prospects are Denver Barkey, a 5-foot-9, 174-pound center, and 5-10, 179-pound winger Alex Ciernik, according to the Hockey News’ ratings.

Bottom line: Gauthier has made the Great Rebuild more challenging.

Fit Flyers’ needs

From the Flyers’ standpoint, it’s frustrating because he was just the type of player they needed.

The frustration is more magnified because Briere said the Boston College star avoided him and club president Keith Jones and never gave a reason why he didn’t want to play for the Flyers, who owned his rights until 2026. If Gauthier didn’t sign by then, the Flyers would have received a compensatory second-round pick.

They decided not to call Gauthier’s bluff. Instead, they took the best offer available.

Now the fleet, righthanded-shooting Drysdale, who has a strong resume of his own, has a chance to show he can blossom into a quality power-play quarterback and a No. 1 defenseman.

Now Gauthier may supplant Sidney Crosby as Public Enemy No. 1 to Flyers fans. It’s just a shame that the Flyers host the Ducks just once a season.

It’s also a shame that a 19-yearold kid has the Flyers’ rookie front office scrambling.

Based on some of his moves, however, Briere seems capable of answering the challenge, though it may take him longer than originally anticipated.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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