The NHL trade deadline came and went on Monday afternoon without Chuck Fletcher making much noise. Sure, the Flyers re-signed Scott Laughton and shipped out Erik Gustafsson and Michael Raffl, but neither of those trades really meant much.
Fletcher met with the media on Monday afternoon after the deadline passed. He spoke about how the deadline went, what Scott Laughton brings to the team, how the team is performing, what he might do in the offseason, and much more.
Let’s jump right into a few key quotes from Chuck Fletcher.
Scott Laughton “loves being a Flyer”
Chuck Fletcher made it pretty clear that this trade deadline was all about Scott Laughton. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise to anyone given how the team performed in March. They weren’t going to be buyers, and having a fire sale isn’t always possible during the season.
“I woke up this morning not knowing whether we would trade Scott Laughton or sign him. That was the big decision today,” Fletcher said during his press conference opening. “We’re very pleased that we were able to re-sign Scott.”
Laughton was the lone Flyers player specifically named by multiple insiders as being available. He was on TSN’s Trade Bait List, mentioned in 31 Thoughts, and then mentioned again by Elliotte Friedman on Saturday Headlines. If the Flyers were going to make a “big” trade, it would end up being Laughton.
However, Laughton wanted to remain in Philadelphia and made sure that was the end result of Monday.
“Scott Laughton wanted to be a Flyer … Both sides worked hard. I give Scott credit. We’ve had a lot of conversations in the last few days and we were able to come to an agreement this morning,” Fletcher said.
“Scott was drafted by the Flyers, we developed him, he loves being a Flyer, and at the end of the day, he made a commitment to us today to sign and stay with us.”
The two sides talked contract before the season but tabled the discussion until just recently.
Laughton “is a very valuable guy” in the NHL
Laughton drew a lot of trade interest, which only confirmed what Fletcher and Co. thought of the versatile forward.
“Certainly, there was a lot of interest in Scott Laughton. But we value him highly and we were happy with the deal and very happy with Scott, the versatility he brings. The energy. Moves around your lineup. He contributes offense. He can kill penalties,” Fletcher said. “What I found out the last few days kinda confirmed our own opinion of Scott that he is a very valuable guy and we’re very happy to have him signed.”
It may be hard to believe that a mostly bottom-six player is a key part of a team, but that’s what Laughton is for the Flyers. He’ll play hard in whatever role he’s given to help the team win.
“Those type of players are hard to get. It’s hard to get those players,” Fletcher said of Laughton. “I think we have a couple other holes on our team and the thought of creating an additional hole, to me, wasn’t very appealing. He’s part of the solution for us going forward and we were able to lock him up to a contract that we feel works for us going forward and obviously works for Scott.”
“The priority was really looking at Scott Laughton. If we subtracted him from our lineup that would be a big hole not just for this year but going forward. We felt it was important to address that situation”
Laughton is a glue guy for the Flyers and a key role player. He’s a known quantity that will be a part of the Flyers for years to come.
Laughton is now locked up for the next five seasons. Fletcher said that he plans on protecting Laughton at the expansion draft this summer as well.
There is some debate about Laughton’s contract. The five-year, $15 million contract carries a team-friendly cap hit, but the length is a bit worrisome. Laughton will be 31 in the final year of the contract.
Flyers should “win more games” and “play better” than they have
Coming into the season, having Scott Laughton re-sign be the highlight of the trade deadline for the Flyers would’ve been disappointing. Hell, it’s still disappointing, but this is what it’s come to.
Fletcher touched on the disappointment of the season as well.
There is no doubt that the Flyers should’ve been buyers at the trade deadline. They won a playoff series last year and were poised for that next step this season. But, obviously, that hasn’t been the case.
“We certainly have much higher expectations for our club than how we played this year,” Fletcher said.
On paper, the Flyers should be one of the best four teams in the division. Defensive breakdowns, poor goaltending, and a continued downward spiral in March ended hopes of that.
“The situation we put ourselves in, our reality, that’s what led to our situation today,” Fletcher said. “The way I look at our group is we have enough talent to win more games than what we’ve won and to play better than how we played.”
The Flyers are playing better recently, but it won’t really matter in the playoff picture. It could still go a long way for the offseason, though.
“There’s certainly an opportunity for this group to finish strong and leave a positive impression on all of us,” Fletcher said.
Chuck Fletcher “looking at this a little bit longer-term”
Chuck Fletcher didn’t have many options available to him at the deadline due to the uniqueness of this season. Canadian teams have to deal with quarantines, there’s a flat cap, and the shortened season has changed things a lot.
Fletcher didn’t want to necessarily give up on assets right now. It sounded like he has a bigger plan in place for the offseason.
“I guess I’m just looking at this a little bit longer-term … We may need some assets here over the next few months to address some of the needs that we have going forward. Frankly, that may be a better use of some of those assets,” Fletcher said.
During his midseason media availability, Fletcher said that the team needed a change to get the “right mix.” He spoke more about that on Monday.
“Duplication of roles for some of our players” was an issue, Fletcher said. “I think our defense, in particular, probably isn’t set up in an ideal way. That’s something we’re going to have to look at.”
The Flyers defense has been one of their biggest problems this season. Trading away Erik Gustafsson will help solve that, as he was just a worse version of Shayne Gostisbehere. There has been better structure over the past week. Fletcher specifically mentioned Samuel Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere as playing well recently. Travis Sanheim has also improved as of late, but the same can’t be said about Philippe Myers.
“I think as we go forward, at the end of the year we’ll sit down with our group; and we have some pretty good ideas of things we want to do, but there’s still some games to be played and still some opportunities here for players to make an impression on us before the end of the season,” Fletcher said.
Tanner Laczynski, other Phantoms “deserve a chance to play”
Not only will players on the current roster get a chance to finish strong, but there will also be a few prospects that get a chance.
“This gives some of our other players an opportunity to play. Tanner Laczynski is on our active roster now for the rest of the season, so we’ll give him a chance to play. There’s certainly some other players either on our Taxi Squad or in Lehigh Valley that, in my opinion, deserve a chance to play and may be able to come up and provide us a spark and play well.”
One of those other players, according to Bill Meltzer, is Wade Allison. Allison was called up to the Taxi Squad on Saturday but did not play in Sunday’s game. That could change soon, however.
Additionally, I asked Chuck Fletcher a) if the Phantoms game postponements this weekend hastened the decision to call up Wade Allison and b) If Allison will get games this season in the NHL team's lineup.
The answer: Yes and Yes.
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) April 12, 2021
Allison has the potential to be a middle-six or top-six winger with his finishing ability. He had 97 points (45 goals, 52 assists) in 106 games during four years at Western Michigan. This year in his first professional season, he has nine points (four goals, five assists) in eight games. The 2016 second-round pick is an exciting prospect for the Flyers.
Overall, the season didn’t go the way anyone wanted. Chuck Fletcher, like most people around the Flyers, expected a lot better this season.
Unfortunately, Fletcher didn’t act soon enough to save the season in March when he had the chance. That led to him only trading away two depth pieces at the trade deadline and re-signing another.
Fletcher made his mark on the Flyers in his first offseason in Philadelphia. He addressed the team’s biggest needs with trades for Kevin Hayes, Matt Niskanen, and Justin Braun. Last offseason, he missed the boat and failed to replace Matt Niskanen or add anyone of value on the backend.
You have to believe that Fletcher won’t make that mistake again. Given his comments on Monday and where the team sits, this will be an offseason like the one in 2019, not 2020. Hopefully, he’ll get it right this time.