As lineup decisions take center stage with the Rangers, the focus has been on Vitali Kravtsov, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafreniere. These are three top-ten picks that will likely dictate any future success. Not lost in the shuffle is Julien Gauthier, who might see his future with the Rangers come to an end sooner rather than later.
This isn’t a slight against Gauthier, who has been better than most give him credit for lately. It’s just a numbers game. They aren’t getting rid of Kakko, and if Pavel Buchnevich gets extended then it’s between Kravtsov and Gauthier. The only way Gauthier wins that battle is if Kravtsov is involved in a trade for a top center.
Complicating things is the emergence of Colin Blackwell, who has gotten the compliment of being compared to Jesper Fast. David Quinn’s affinity for putting him in the top-six aside, Blackwell is almost a perfect fourth liner for this club. He’s cheap, he’s effective, and he can play up the lineup in a pinch. Gauthier, on the other hand, is much more skilled, but also much more raw.
Trade or Expansion Draft
There are only two real situations for Gauthier, and that’s to be traded or be lost via expansion. Looking at the latter first, the Rangers are going to have to choose between Gauthier, Blackwell, and Brett Howden for that final expansion protection spot. This of course assumes no trades in advance.
If it unfolds like this, then it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or a fortune teller to know that Gauthier is a distant third on that list. The only real decision will be whether the Rangers protect Blackwell or Howden.
As for a trade, well Gauthier still has some value. It may not be Joey Keane value, as Gauthier has been bouncing around the lineup, but it’s still value. He could perhaps be a nice little sweetener in a trade. On his own though, he may not bring in much. On the bright side, Joey Keane isn’t doing much in Carolina, sitting on the taxi squad.
The writing might be on the wall for Julien Gauthier and any potential future with the Rangers. Much like Brendan Lemieux, he will most likely get more ice time elsewhere. He’s supremely talented, but he’s not a priority on the development cycle. The pending roster crunch and an expansion draft may make him the odd man out.