Julien Gauthier (2 years, $787.5AAV)
Who needs first-rounders when you can sign former ones? At 26, Gauthier is still young enough where the flashes of potential keep you thinking there may be a higher ceiling than an energy fourth-liner for the former 2016 1st round pick (21st overall) of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Standing 6'4, 220 pounds, he possesses a combination of size and speed that adds to his intrigue. When the New York Rangers acquired him in 2020 for prospect Joey Keane, Gauthier had racked up the fourth most goals in the AHL over the two prior seasons (53), scoring 26 goals in 44 games during the 2019-20 season while playing for the Charlotte Checkers, the Hurricanes' AHL affiliate.
Whether it be a lack of opportunity or a lack of a finishing touch, the goal production has not followed him to the NHL. Playing regularly less than 10 minutes a night, and without a consistent line, he just had two goals in 47 career NHL games before the 2021 season. After scoring six goals in 40 games with the Blueshirts last season, he was dealt at the deadline with a 7th-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for D Tyler Motte.
The signing has fans wondering what the next move is, as the Islanders have little room over the salary cap and still need to re-sign RFA Oliver Wahlstrom. Even if a blockbuster trade for Alex DeBrincat isn't in the cards, there is at least one transaction with the current roster happening after the Gauthier signing. With Gauthier signing his two-year deal, the Islanders have now had the 19th (Kieffer Bellows), 20th (Dennis Cholowski), and 21st (Gauthier) in their organization.