Alain Vigneault had no problem with expounding on Scott Laughton's value.
"Scotty's a real good young man," the Flyers' head coach said last month. "He's fun to be around, he's very intense, he's got a bite to his game. For me, he's the type of player, as a coach, that you like to have. He can go anywhere from one of the top-six forward positions to a bottom-six forward position, in any role and not say a word and just play. He wants to win, he's a team guy and he's been very effective for us so far."
Laughton has become an integral piece to the club's group of forwards, so it was interesting to see him pop up on TSN's trade bait list this week. TSN's Frank Seravalli has Laughton listed at No. 16 on his top-30 trade board.
Why might that be?
Well, for good reasons. Laughton is ultra versatile, a team guy, only 26 years old and a pending unrestricted free agent with a team-friendly cap hit of $2.3 million. In the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament, Laughton led the Flyers in goals with five. Over the last two seasons, he has 20 goals and 24 assists (all at even strength) in 81 games. In that span, his on-ice goal differential at even strength is plus-21, second best on the Flyers to only Sean Couturier (plus-28).
With the Flyers taking a step back in 2020-21 and teetering on the brink of playoff contender, all of the above suddenly makes Laughton an attractive trade chip, given there is the risk of losing him for nothing after the season. Laughton has the chance to hit the unrestricted free-agent market in the offseason and has warranted a raise, even in the flat-cap era.
No doubt, the Flyers would like to extend him. But if they can't before Laughton can test the UFA waters for the first time in his NHL career, the Flyers will obviously listen if Stanley Cup-contending teams reach out at the April 12 trade deadline. General manager Chuck Fletcher has said the Flyers are not selling at the deadline, but after the club's 6-10-1 March in this shortened, unprecedented season, they won't be buying big, either.
"Because you're in the middle of this terrible streak, does that mean you say, 'OK, here's the guy we don't have signed and it's the easiest move we could potentially make.' There are a lot of teams out there if you told them that Scott Laughton was available for a playoff run, they're throwing themselves at a guy like him," Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman said on a Flyers-focused 31 Thoughts podcast published Friday. "But one thing I do strongly believe is that the Flyers know that that guy loves being a Flyer and it means a lot to him — and it's always harder to move out guys who really feel part of the team."
That is definitely on the Flyers' side. Laughton truly loves being here. It's where he has been his entire professional career, going back to 2013 after he was selected in the first round of the 2012 draft by the Flyers. He has built relationships throughout the organization and also recently proposed to his girlfriend Chloe.
"Definitely a little nerve-racking," Laughton said Tuesday of the engagement. "One of the best days of my life, so just very thankful and grateful for my fiancee. She's been with me since I've been in Allentown, so it's been a long road for both of us. Just very grateful to have her in my life."
The 2021-22 season is a huge year for the Flyers. It should be the season that the NHL returns to mostly normal, while the Flyers want to seriously contend. Claude Giroux and Couturier will be on the final year of their respective contracts next season, so it's a big year before big decisions.
Laughton makes the Flyers tough to play against at 5-on-5 and he kills penalties. For a team already giving up goals at a concerning clip this season, the Flyers should want Laughton back. At this year's trade deadline, they'll listen, of course, but if the Flyers are OK parting ways with Laughton, they better be blown away by the offer.
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