Scott Laughton
No Flyer had more goals in last year’s playoffs than Laughton’s five. The Flyers are hoping he’ll have more playoff celebrations to come in Orange and Black during his new five-year contract. (Getty Images)

If there’s one thing you gotta do after losing to the Buffalo Sabres in agonizing fashion (again), it’s to extend somebody, right? About 40 minutes before Monday afternoon’s 3 PM trade deadline, the Flyers signed forward Scott Laughton to a five-year, $15 million contract ($3 AAV) that runs through the end of the 2025-26 season. Bob McKenzie reported the terms first.

The fact that Laughton was even in a position to receive an extension like this shows the massive strides he’s made over the last few seasons. A couple of seasons ago, Laughton looked like he might be a bust. After being taken 20th in the 2012 NHL Draft, Laughton received a brief five-game trial to start the 2012-13 season. Ultimately, the Flyers sent Laughton back to junior for the next two years, culminating in an impressive 89 point 2013-14 campaign. But it took Laughton a while to translate that success to the NHL level. He put up just 27 points in 102 NHL games over the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. After suffering a scary injury in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Laughton played just two NHL games in 2016-17, spending the rest of the year in the AHL.

It turned out that was for the best. Laughton remodeled his game under Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon, becoming a versatile two-way forward who could be trusted defensively at five-on-five and on the PK. Laughton played in all 82 games in the 2017-18 season, putting up 20 points and solid possession numbers (51.64% Corsi, 50.04% xG at 5-on-5, score and venue adjusted). Though his underlying numbers dipped in the next couple of years, Laughton’s offense increased; he put 32 points in 2018-19, then scored at a 45-point pace in 2019-20. This year, Laughton has 17 points in 38 games and rebounding play-driving metrics (48.48% Corsi, 50.01% xG).

It’s easy to see why the Flyers wanted to keep the 26-year old around. Laughton is an extremely versatile player; he can play center or the wing, and while he’s best in a bottom-six role, he can fill in higher up in the lineup in short spurts. In fact, he became the Flyers’ first-line center in Games 5 and 6 of the second round last year when Sean Couturier went down and responded by scoring the OT winner in Game 5 and a third-period equalizer in Game 6. Only one Flyers forward (Sean Couturier) has more PK time than Laughton since the start of the 17-18 season. He has enough to fill in on the second power-play in a pinch. He’s a great Swiss Army knife for any team to have.

Which is why so many teams wanted to have him. Contending teams like Toronto were heavily linked to Laughton in recent weeks with the Flyers slipping out of the playoff race. General manager Chuck Fletcher probably could’ve gotten a solid return for Laughton; maybe not a first-round pick, but a second-rounder and another late pick or mid-tier prospect seems reasonable. But it’s clear that Laughton wanted to remain a Flyer, and the Flyers wanted the same. So in the end, they worked a deal out, rather than trading Laughton or letting him walk as an unrestricted free agent.

In terms of average annual value, this is pretty much fair value. It’s a slight boost on the 2-year, $2.3 million deal Laughton signed as a restricted free agent in the 2019 offseason. The term, on the other hand, is dicey. As previously mentioned, Scott Laughton fits best in a bottom-six role. Giving long-term deals to those types of players is usually a bad idea. It limits long-term flexibility, which you generally only want to do for essential players. Laughton is solid, but he’s not that. The last time the Flyers gave term to a bottom-six player, it turned into the Dale Weise debacle. Laughton’s deal will probably not age as terribly as that one. But there’s no guarantee it goes down as a success either.

Extending Laughton today also means the Flyers need to protect him in the Seattle expansion draft. Why the Flyers didn’t wait until after that process to announce the extension (they could’ve just agreed to a hand-shake deal today) is unclear; perhaps Laughton’s camp didn’t want to deal with that level of uncertainty. Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes’ no-move clauses guarantee protection. Sean Couturier and Travis Konecny are locks to stay as well. It’s highly likely the Flyers protect seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie. That leaves two spots for Oskar Lindblom, Nolan Patrick, James van Riemsdyk, and Jakub Voracek. The Flyers will likely be trying to move salary this summer to change things up. The expansion draft (which I previewed from the Flyers’ perspective last year) could be a way to do just that. But again, no promises.

Everyone following the Flyers knows the team needs to make changes if they want the 2021 season to go down as a blip on the radar rather than the beginning of the end for their current core. Extending Scott Laughton doesn’t change that. But it does show that Chuck Fletcher has a bit more trust for his players than most fans probably do right now. The Flyers will look to supplement their roster over the offseason, that remains undoubted. But a move like this suggests Fletcher and company still have trust in their current group to be a big part of turning things around.

Erik Gustafsson Traded To Canadiens For 2022 MTL 7th

Just before I finished this article, the Flyers decided to make another move. It’s one I saw coming, to be honest. Gustafsson had played just one of the Flyers’ last ten games, clearing falling to eighth on the depth chart. His offensive instincts and power-play work were as advertised, but unfortunately, so was his total inability to play defense. Montreal is hurting at left defense: Ben Chiarot is injured, and they just lost Victor Mete to Florida on waivers. So it’s not a surprise to see the Habs add some depth there. Philadelphia also retains 50% of Gustafsson’s $3 million cap hit in this trade. Best of luck to Gus in Montreal, even though things didn’t work out in Philadelphia.

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Advanced Stats via Natural Stat Trick; Cap Info via CapFriendly