Every player brought in on a professional try out deal is competing for a contract. One of the four the New Jersey Devils brought in just earned one today. This afternoon, the Devils announced that they have signed center Frederik Gauthier to a one-season, two-way contract that pays out $800,000 at the NHL level and $175,000 at the AHL level.
I am a bit confused by this signing. Gauthier has only played in two of the team’s five preseason games: the 2-1 overtime win in Bridgeport over the Isles and the 2-6 loss to Our Hated Rivals on Wednesday that ended up being the team’s last preseason game. Both of those games featured lineups more suited for Utica than New Jersey. I did not have a lot of high expectations for Gauthier when I learned he was brought in on a PTO. The 26-year old has not been productive (13 goals and 31 points in 170 NHL games) or particularly good in the run of play at 5-on-5 per Natural Stat Trick since entering the league in the 2015-16 season. That he could not stick on a not-good Arizona team last season is also telling. Yes, he is very large. No, he does not use that huge frame for being physical. So what does he bring to the table exactly for New Jersey? I am not sure.
I suppose Gauthier did really well in practices and the coaches felt his game performances were enough to warrant a deal. Even so, the team’s center depth includes Hughes, Hischier, Mercer, McLeod, and Boqvist with Zacha as a potential option. Did they really need another center? Maybe Utica does. Given that Gauthier played in Tuscon for part of the 2021 season, perhaps his willingness to go to the AHL also helped his case. The deal is a two-way contract for a reason. That signals to me that he is not above playing in the ‘A.’ That is a good thing as it could be what he does for most of the 2021-22 season.
To that end, this signing may not signal that he has made the team. Since he was with the Devils on a tryout, it may be likely he could pass through waivers. With teams expected to place a lot of players through the system on Saturday and Sunday, he (and others) has a better chance of clearing them for re-assignment.
All the same, congratulations to Gauthier for earning a contract out of the Devils’ training camp. Even if it is spent in Utica more than in Newark, it is still another season of pro hockey with a possibility of playing in the NHL again. That’s not nothing. We shall see whether Gauthier sticks with New Jersey to start the season or if he is called up later on.
What do you make of this signing? Do you think the other PTO players, Jimmy Vesey or Tyler Wotherspoon, will be signed? Do you think Gauthier makes the team? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about this signing in the comments. Thank you for reading.