NY Islanders place F Julien Gauthier on waivers after being benched then scratched

Washington Capitals v New York Islanders
Washington Capitals v New York Islanders / Rich Graessle/GettyImages

You have to think that New York Islanders forward Julien Gauthier was enjoying a peaceful bye week and All-Star break when he heard that Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman was reporting he had been on waivers. The team has yet to make an official announcement.

GM Lou Lamoriello signed the speedy 26-year-old to a two-year contract this off-season worth $1.575 million. He played in three of the four games since Patrick Roy took over as coach, failing to record a point and was a -2. He was benched during the 4-3 loss at Montreal after playing 7:59 and then was a healthy scratch versus the Florida Panthers in the final game before the All-Star break.

Gauthier, a 2016 1st round selection (21st overall) of the Carolina Hurricanes, has been traded twice in his career, first to the New York Rangers, where he played parts of four seasons, then to the Ottawa Senators. Through 27 games with the Isles this season, he scored five goals and has four assists, having moved ahead of Oliver Wahlstrom on the depth chart in December.

Gauthier earned a spot on the roster after a strong training camp where he showcased his speed and plus shot. His talent has always been tantalizing, but something has always been missing and holding him back, which is why he hasn't been able to solidify himself as an NHL regular.

After playing only twice in the team's first 14 games, Gauthier seemingly seized an opportunity for more ice team starting in late November. “He’s just using his speed and his size and he's putting together a little bit of a string of goals and assists,” former HC Lane Lambert said of Gauthier after he scored twice in 18 seconds during a win vs. Washington. “It's nothing more than that. Just go up and down and try and create opportunities that way. And he's done a good job."

It's hard to know the reasoning behind this move at this juncture. Does it mean that multiple players out of the lineup are due back after the break, or did Roy not like something he saw in Gauthier's game? Perhaps this means Oliver Wahlstrom is going to get a bigger opportunity, or this was a message to the entire roster that playing time needs to be earned, or there will be consequences.