The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed one of their restricted free agents, inking Frederik Gauthier to a two-year, two-way contract that carries an average annual value of $675K. Gauthier wasn’t eligible for arbitration, but some were surprised he even received a qualifying offer from the Maple Leafs who are already closing in on the 50-contract limit.
Gauthier, 23, was selected in the first round by the Maple Leafs five years ago, but hasn’t turned into the powerful two-way center many believed he could be. Instead he’s struggled to even produce offense at the minor league level, scoring just 49 points in 159 career AHL contests. He played just nine games for the Maple Leafs last season, and may not even get that much of a chance now that the team has even more depth down the middle. John Tavares will command more minutes than Tyler Bozak ever did, while Josh Jooris and Par Lindholm are both contenders to take over on the fourth line. It would likely take some injuries for Gauthier to see the NHL, meaning he’ll set his sights on another Calder Cup with the Toronto Marlies instead.
On the Marlies, Gauthier has a clear role. Not asked to do much offensively, he is still a big part of their team and lines up against the opponent’s best on a nightly basis. He’ll re-join veterans like Colin Greening and Chris Mueller along with newcomer Adam Cracknell as the core of what could be another revolving door season for the AHL club. Maple Leafs’ GM Kyle Dubas has developed a minor league development system with more players than roster spots, and Gauthier will be asked to help along those other young players as they try to reach their full potential.
Gauthier will be a restricted free agent still when the contract is finished, unless of course he fails to play in 43 NHL games over the next two seasons. That would make him eligible for Group VI unrestricted free agency, something that looks like a distinct possibility without real positive development in his offensive repertoire.