Rangers GM Chris Drury checked off another item from his summer to-do list Friday when forward Julien Gauthier agreed to a one-year contract.
According to PuckPedia, it is a two-way deal that pays $775,000 if Gauthier is in the NHL, and $300,000 if he is playing in the minor leagues.
Gauthier, 23, was a restricted free agent coming off his entry level contract. He’s the third RFA signed by Drury since the end of the 2021 season, and the second in the last week. Forward Brett Howden agreed to a one-year, $885,000 deal last Friday.
The deal comes one day before teams have to submit their protected lists to the NHL for next Wednesday’s expansion draft to stock the league’s 32nd team, the Seattle Kraken, which will begin play in the fall. The 6-4, 227-pound Gauthier is a candidate – along with Howden, Colin Blackwell and Kevin Rooney – for the last forward spot on the Rangers’ protected list.
Teams are allowed to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and a goaltender, or eight skaters and a goaltender. The Rangers are expected to go the 7-3-1 route, and the first six forwards protected would be Mika Zibanejad, Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, Ryan Strome, Pavel Buchnevich and Filip Chytil.
Gauthier, a native of Point-Aux-Trembles, Quebec, was a first-round pick in 2016 by the Carolina Hurricanes and was traded to the Rangers in February 2020, in exchange for defenseman Joey Keane. Gauthier has yet to live up to his potential as a goalscorer and struggled to get consistent ice time under former coach David Quinn. He played in 30 games in 2021, scoring two goals, with six assists, and 14 penalty minutes. In 47 career NHL games, he has two goals and nine assists and 22 PIM.
After signing Gauthier, Drury still has a number of restricted free agents to re-sign. Buchnevich and No. 1 goaltender Igor Shesterkin are RFAs with arbitration rights, while Chytil and defenseman Libor Hajek are RFAs without arbitration rights. Forward Phillip DiGiuseppe and defenseman Brendan Smith are unrestricted free agents.