ANAHEIM, Calif. — For Cutter Gauthier, the last 48 hours have been a “whirlwind of emotions,” as he put it on Wednesday evening while speaking with local media via Zoom call. The Swedish-born American was acquired by the Anaheim Ducks on Monday in exchange for Jamie Drysdale in a deal that had Gauthier in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Gauthier, who was drafted fifth overall by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2022 NHL draft, requested a trade last April after the conclusion of his freshman season at Boston College. His wish would be granted nine months later. But what caused this decision?
“It’s been a long process and a handful of months dealing with this and I don’t think it’s the right time to kind of discuss it,” said Gauthier. “There might be one day where I kind of get into the details of what happened. Right now, I kind of want to keep it to a private matter.”
The decision had nothing to do with former Flyer and BC alum Kevin Hayes or current Flyers head coach John Tortorella either, Gauthier says. He made sure to address those hypotheticals when asked.
“I haven’t spoken to him in a long time,” Gauthier said of Hayes. “I wanted to clarify it so it’s not just his words against everyone else’s. I wanted to make sure (it’s known) that he definitely was not involved in this whatsoever. It’s kind of disrespectful to his name that he was being brought up.”
“All those rumors saying I was scared of Torts, that’s not the case at all,” continued Gauthier. “I’ve had many hardo coaches throughout my whole life and I think that any coach I play for would love to have me on their team. I want to do whatever it takes to win and if they’re a hard, yelling, screaming kind of coach, I’ll roll with the punches. I’m never going to disrespect or talk back to a coach. I’m going to give it my all every single shift and that was definitely not the reason why I didn’t want to play in Philly. I actually met Torts during dev camp two years back. I was super excited and thrilled to meet him and obviously being a big name in hockey and the coaching staff industry, definitely was not against playing for him whatsoever.”
Gauthier’s decision to request a trade left many online confused and that is where speculation began to run rampant. Hate messages and insults––along with death threats––began to pile up in Gauthier’s social media messages with every passing day after the trade was completed.
“My DMs on Instagram right now are kind of pretty crazy of what people are saying right now. There’s been thousands and thousands of messages. I’ve been getting some five, 10 minutes ago. 19-year-old kid getting a lot of death threats and a bunch of thousands and thousands of people reaching out and just saying some pretty poor things that I wouldn’t wish among my worst enemy. It was pretty tough to see.”
“But it’s a business. Like I said before with all the rumors spreading around that aren’t true, it’s kind of tough to go out there and say one word or anything to quiet those people. People are going to have opinions, people are going to say things. I can’t tell them to have an opinion or not. Definitely been a stressful situation the last 48 hours.”
Gauthier also made it clear that he never said that he didn’t want to be a Flyer. He found the rumors that were spreading around to be funny and said he didn’t think he saw one thing that’s been said that was spot-on. “People like to talk and people like to make things up and other people like to listen. I haven’t seen one thing that’s been remotely close to the reasons that I decided.”
“It wasn’t one specific reason why I asked for a trade,” said Gauthier. “It was multiple, re-occurring issues that I’d seen over the past year and a half, two years of being under the Flyers organization. It kind of hit me all at once, thinking ‘I can’t move forward with this’ and ‘I really need to step up for myself and see what’s best for my future’ and that’s what I did.”
For Gauthier, it was difficult to stand by and keep his decision private while the Flyers organization addressed the media with their perspective. It was tough to see what they were saying about him, especially when he felt that some of it was inaccurate. Being on social media at all was difficult as well, with his name plastered across every NHL media network.
“It’s kind of tough when it’s all in your face right there,” he said. “You pull up Twitter and you see my name, every report of what’s going on and everyone has their own opinion. It’s kind of tough not to completely stay away from it, but like I said before, it’s a business. People are going to say things, especially in the situation we are in right now. It’s kind of tough knowing the real reason why and seeing all these people putting false statements out there and not being able to fully express what happened yet.”
Through this situation that unfolded, Gauthier has been able to lean on family and close friends for support. He was able to spend time at home after returning from competing at the World Juniors in Sweden––where Gauthier helped lead Team USA to a gold medal––instead of going right back to Boston College. “You can definitely see who your circle of friends are in situations like this,” he said. “It’s been good for the most part and a handful of bad things from Flyers fans.”
As for the trade itself, Gauthier is excited to be an Anaheim Duck. He confirmed that the plan is to sign his entry-level contract with Anaheim following the conclusion of Boston College’s season, but he isn’t thinking about that right now with the chance to win the Beanpot and the NCAA Championship still on the horizon.
Gauthier isn’t very familiar with any of the current Ducks roster, although he’s spoken to both Troy Terry and Leo Carlsson already. He does have familiarity with Nikita Nesterenko, currently with the San Diego Gulls. Gauthier and Nesterenko were teammates and linemates at Boston College last season, with Nesterenko signing his ELC with Anaheim after Boston College’s season came to an end.
“I was begging him to stay another year last year knowing I was coming back and he didn’t want to,” said Gauthier with a laugh. “It’s kind of funny how it all worked out that maybe one day we’ll be playing together. Nesty was one of the first guys to reach out to me when he saw it. He was super thrilled and so pumped that Anaheim out of all the teams was the spot I landed.”
Gauthier also spoke to former Duck Ryan Kesler, who was Gauthier’s assistant coach when Gauthier was playing for the U.S. National Under-18 Team. Kesler and Gauthier have spent the last two summers together in Michigan––where both of them live. Kesler was also represented by Overhardt during his playing career, another common bond.
“Obviously, it was a bit different (for him). He was finishing out his career there with family and kids,” said Gauthier. “But he said it would be a great place to start a young career. There’s so much stuff to do, the weather’s great. He had nothing but great things to say about it, so listening to him and seeing how well he’s done in his career, pretty excited to get things going there soon enough.”
Does Gauthier regret telling Flyers brass that he was ‘built to be a Flyer’ after they selected him in 2022?
“No, not at all. Getting drafted in the NHL was a dream come true. I never would have thought I’d be in the position I am today with everything that has transpired. It was one of the best days of my life, being drafted in the NHL. It’s everything you’ve worked for, everything you’ve dreamed of and I definitely wasn’t going to say the wrong things in that specific time. I was just super excited that they believed in me at the fifth overall spot. But with a handful of situations occurring after the time I was drafted, I had to make a decision that was best for my future.”