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Making sense of Chuck Fletcher’s three moves on trade deadline day



Flyers Trade Deadline

It was a quiet trade deadline day around most of the NHL and that included the Philadelphia Flyers.

Scott Laughton was the main name to watch and the forward signed a five-year contract extension in the two o’clock hour.

It was looking more and more like the Flyers weren’t going to do anything. It was getting late into the day and both of the Flyers’ other pending free agents hadn’t been moved.

Then, in relatively quick succession, both Erik Gustafsson and Michael Raffl were gone.

The Flyers only made one trade that was revealed before 3 o’clock. They sent Erik Gustafsson to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2022 seventh-round pick. Then, shortly after the deadline passed, it was reported that the Washington Capitals acquired Michael Raffl for a fifth-round pick.

They weren’t the big, splashy moves that some may have wanted at the Flyers trade deadline, but let’s break down the three transactions made today by Chuck Fletcher.

Flyers lock up Laughton

Laughton wanted to stay in Philadelphia and he’s now under contract through 2026.

It feels like Laughton has been here a while, but he’s still only just 26 years old (he turns 27 next month). The $3 million cap hit is a slight raise from his $2.3 million AAV on his current two-year deal. That part of the contract is pretty good for the Flyers.

Laughton had 32 points in 82 games two years ago. Last year, he had a career year with 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in just 49 games –– that’s an 82-game pace of 63 points (21 goals, 42 assists). This season, Laughton has 17 points (7 goals, 10 assists) through 38 games ––  on pace for 36 points (15 goals, 21 assists) in a full 82-game season. However, he has missed a few prime opportunities as of late that would put him at a higher pace.

The polarizing part of the contract is the term: five years. It’s a year or two longer than you want to sign a bottom-six player for, but it could be worth it with Laughton.

There was (and is) a lot of hubbub about the five years for Laughton. I get it, it’s a lot of years for a bottom-six player. However, he’s a known quantity and a glue guy for the Flyers in the bottom-six (and sometimes the second line).

Giving Laughton a longer deal with a lower cap hit rather than a shorter deal with a higher cap hit helps the Flyers in their short-term window. (Yes, the Flyers’ window is still in the next few years, as long as Claude Giroux is around). Hopefully, they’ll use that extra $1+ million of cap room to shore up the defense this offseason.

Laughton will be 31 in the final year of his contract and should be able to produce at a fourth-line rate. Even if he goes downhill quickly, his $3 million cap hit is moveable if the Flyers end up needing cap space in the middle of the decade.

Overall, this isn’t a bad contract for the Flyers. It’s a tad long, but the cap hit is where you want it to be and having a known quantity in the bottom-six is never a bad thing. Especially when it’s a solid known quantity like Laughton. He’s comfortable playing in whatever role he’s asked to and he’ll go about his game.

Good riddance, Gustafsson

Erik Gustafsson just didn’t work out in Philadelphia. He was given a one-year contract to see if he could recapture some magic from his 60-point season just two years ago in Chicago, but he was a disaster.

Gustafsson managed to play in 24 games for the Flyers, which was probably 10 or 15 games too many. Now, with the Flyers having a healthy defense and Samuel Morin back on the blue line, Gustafsson was on the outside looking in.

The defenseman last played on March 31st in the loss in Buffalo. The Flyers have played better hockey since then, without him in the lineup, and Fletcher got what he could for the floundering defenseman.

Who knows, maybe Gustafsson can work in a sheltered role for the Canadiens and help out on their power play. They’ll just have to limit his time in the defensive zone.

The Flyers only got back a 2022 seventh-round pick and retained 50% of his salary, but at least it’s something. Also, a 2022 pick is better than a 2021 pick since most junior leagues did not play this season due to COVID. And if they did, most scouts didn’t travel to games.

Raffl gets a ticket to Washington

Michael Raffl could’ve been traded two seasons ago, but he signed a two-year contract extension instead. The Austrian winger has been a key role player for the Flyers since coming over in 2013.

Raffl played 504 games over the course of eight seasons with the Flyers. He was an underrated part of those teams through the transition rebuild years.

The Flyers received a fifth-round pick in return for Raffl, a pending free agent. With Tanner Laczynski fitting right in at the NHL level, there was no reason not to flip Raffl for a pick.

Unfortunately, it was only a fifth-round pick and it was to a division rival, but at least it’s something. Either the Flyers will get a lottery ticket in the draft or Fletcher could use the pick as a piece to move up or sweeten a deal in the offseason.

Fletcher remains quiet at trade deadline

Overall, this trade deadline was a bit disappointing for Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers.

“I think the makeup of our group probably is not right, I think that’s a fair comment,” Fletcher said on March 24th. “I think we do need to address that going forward to get the right mix.”

Well, the trade deadline has come and gone and Fletcher didn’t do anything to get the right mix. However, those comments came while the Flyers still had an easy stretch of games ahead of them to get back into things. Maybe Fletcher would’ve been more aggressive had the Flyers not lost to the Sabres twice or gone 6-10-1 in March.

It’s understandable, though. Most big “shakeup” trades aren’t made during the season. The offseason provides a clean slate for teams to make the necessary changes to their roster without worrying about the standings or the expansion draft.

While this trade deadline was a quiet one, it could be a loud offseason for Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers.

Photo: Heather Barry Images

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