I have though Flyers playoff chances were done on March 17 after the 9-0 rout by the Rangers. It became cemented on March 29th and 31st after a hairy split against the hapless Buffalo Sabres. This team was not going to the playoffs, and they were not buyers.
But the front office saw it differently, not ready to pull the plug on the season. To their credit the team has played much better in April after the heavy March schedule did the team in. This hesitation has put the Flyers in a less favorable bargaining position, but there is still time to get something for the teams UFAs.
The deal is simple, Scott Laughton to the Lightning for Cal Foote and the 2022 first round pick. Is it that easy? Well no, the Flyers will need to retain 50% of Laughton’s salary, but that is a small concession. This deal is mutually beneficial to both clubs and if played correctly could be a boom for the Flyers.
Good For The Lightning
The time is now for the Lightning, no not like it was for the Flyers back in January, really the time is now. The Lightning are talent laden, and pinned against the cap. And as of today are already 3.5 million dollars over the cap for next season. Beyond this year there are going to be some changes coming, the cap will see to that, but the defending champs are looking to maximize their chances for this season.
Laughton, who is finally getting his due, fills the vacancies of a penalty killer and bottom six forward who can win faceoffs. Laughton is a plus 3C, if not a legit 2C, at this point in his career. And his games is the type that holds teams together, whatever the Lightning need he can provide it. A glue guy like Laughton who can play many roles effectively is just the type of versatile player championship clubs covet.
Good For the Flyers
Cal Foote is a good starting spot. A lot has been made of Niskanen’s departure and the potential impact on the Flyers defense. While difficult to quantify, Provorov has had difficulty finding a solid defender to team up with. Foote has not set the world on fire, but he has not been asked to do so.
It is worth a try as Foote’s defense first mentality may be just the tonic for Provorov. Foote could be exposed in the Kraken expansion draft, but there will be more intriguing targets than the RHD. However, even if Foote is selected, the Flyers still have the first round pick.
The best part for the Flyers is Laughton is a UFA, which means they could re-sign him after the season. More importantly, it is unlikely Tampa would be able to tender him an offer given their cap situation. This could net the Flyers a first round pick and a player while losing Laughton for only three months. For a team that needs assets and have a bad mix on defense, this seems like a no brainer.
The Fletcher Effect
Fletcher sent Simmonds away at the deadline for basically nothing and it was massively disappointing. His moves starting this off-season have been bizarre. It could be he still has some stink on him from his days with the Wild, where he signed Parise and Suter to thirteen year contracts.
Hockey GMs can be mercurial if they feel they have been wronged. Paul Holmgren was effective blackballed for signing Shea Weber to an offer sheet, and it could be other GMs will trade with Fletcher only if they can stick it to him, as with Simmonds. It will be interesting to see how the deadline plays out, but at this point Fletcher needs to look at improving the team for next year and beyond.