Last summer, the Flyers stood pat while other teams in the Metropolitan Division loaded up on free agent talent. A similar thing happened this year at the trade deadline in March where the division got strong and the Flyers stood by and watched.
Sure, the Flyers re-signed some young guys and made some depth piece moves. But they struck early during the free agency period. They locked up Nicolas Deslauriers to a four year contract worth $1.75 million a year.
At first, it seemed like a joke…a slap in the face to Flyers fans. Basically, it was the sort of move that Chuck Fletcher would make. A guy who is 31 and not a scorer was signed to a long term contract Why? It made no sense. The move baffled everyone. Was this Chuck’s move or did new head coach John Tortorella have something to do with the acquisition as well?
Yes, Deslauriers is not a goal scoring forward. That’s not why he was brought to Philadelphia. He had another role.
When Ed Snider brought the Flyers into existence, he became incensed when they were knocked around in their first playoff run by the St. Louis Blues. They were beaten up and knocked down. Snider vowed that the Flyers would never, ever be humiliated in that fashion again. He helped the team assemble what would become the Broad Street Bullies and a hockey dynasty was formed.
Fast forward 50 years. Deslauriers is a Flyer in the Bully mold. He was second in the NHL this year with 136 playoff minutes and was third in hits with 306 (behind former Flyers Radko Gudas and Luke Schenn). He led the league with 14 fights this season.
On a team with a lot of young talent, there are a lot of big guys out there, guys like Gudas, who want to “welcome” you into the NHL by slamming you against the wall or knocking you to the ice. Maybe you remember when Philly’s Brandon Manning injured a young star by the name of Connor McDavid and ruined his rookie season. It happens.
Having a player like Deslauriers on your team means that isn’t going to happen. Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Cam York, Elliot Desonyers, Wade Allison, and other young players are going to get their chance to play and learn how to perform at the NHL level. Why? Because Deslauriers will come around and smash into your guy if you touch ours.
Likewise, if you think you are going to go headhunting on Travis Konecny, Owen Tippett, or one of the other stars, you have to remember that Deslauriers will come off the bench at some point and go right for your star as well. Call it an insurance policy.
Even though Deslauriers is not known for scoring, he actually performed well this year. He scored six goals, including this shorthanded goal against Detroit.
Overall, he had 12 points. And for being a fourth line guy, he had a respectable -11. That’s not bad.
Of him, John Tortorella has talked about his ability to chance the momentum and energy of the team with a single hit. We’ve seen that this year. His physicality and work ethic impressed the coach. He may have only played 10 minutes a night, but when he was out there, you noticed him. He worked hard.
While the Flyers haven’t made many moves in the last 12 months, the signing of Deslauriers has been one of the best ones. And over the next few years, while the team is moving forward with younger players, Deslauriers will be right by their side; an insurance policy there to call on when needed.