This year’s trade deadline doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an overly exciting one and a lot of that has to do with the extremely thin market. There are a lot of teams on the bubble that are still competing for a playoff position and there are coincidentally a lot of expiring contracts on contending teams, which makes it very unlikely they get moved.
The trade board lost two players on Wednesday as Elias Lindholm was traded from Calgary to Vancouver for a package surrounding Andrei Kuzmenko. It is widely believed that the Flames are nowhere near done as they look to move on from Chris Tanev and Noah Hanifin next. All of this bodes well for the Philadelphia Flyers as interest has reportedly spiked on Scott Laughton.
The Center market is relatively thin. Hence, the @NHLFlyers are taking calls on Scott Laughton. They’re not eager to trade him but Danny Briere is gauging the interest.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 1, 2024
Laughton has become the proverbial whipping boy this season, but not without some merit. It was rumoured that there were deals on the table at the 2023 NHL Draft where the Flyers could have acquired a late first round pick for the veteran forward. If not a first round pick, there were several offers involving second and third rounders, something that the rebuilding Flyers could have used. However, Laughton is seen for far more than his on-ice production as he brings stability to the locker room, his leadership is unquestioned, his off-ice activities are always revered, and his utility throughout the lineup is a boon for any head coach.
Laughton also carries a cap hit of just $3 million and is signed for 2 more seasons beyond 2023-24. He has been coveted by a myriad of teams over the last 3-4 seasons, but the Flyers have yet to budge on the soon-to-be 30-year-old. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been one of the more consistent teams on his coattails and with the relatively thin market for centres this year, they’re right back in the thick of things for his services.
With Lindholm off the board, teams looking for centre help will have to divert their attentions to Sean Monahan of the Montréal Canadiens, Adam Henrique of the Anaheim Ducks, and Tyler Johnson of the Chicago Blackhawks. There are other forwards like Vladimir Tarasenko, Anthony Duclair, Dominik Kubalík, and Reilly Smith, but centre depth is always at the forefront of the minds of contending clubs.
The Flyers also just recently locked up Ryan Poehling for 2 years at a cap hit of just $1.9 million. Poehling is essentially a younger version of Laughton and he costs almost half the price, which would make it easier to swallow if they ended up moving on from their presumed locker room leader.
Now, just because interest has spiked doesn’t mean the Flyers are going to move him. Daniel Brière has stood firmly on the pedestal that he will listen to every and any offer thrown his way and will only accept if he’s blown away or it makes complete hockey sense. The Flyers love what Laughton brings to the table and in the midst of a playoff push, they don’t seem overly concerned about moving certain pieces. Sean Walker will more or less find a new home since the acquisition of Jamie Drysdale overcrowds a busy back end, Marc Staal should also be on his way out, and then you have Nick Seeler – who some are saying will more than likely receive a contract extension.
Laughton’s low cap hit, him signed through beyond 2023-24, and his on-ice role will make him a very sought after asset should the Flyers be interested in moving him.
Laughton has taken a pretty large step backwards this season compared to last, which has stirred up a lot of the trade talk from the fan base and media alike. Hindsight being 20/20, the Flyers would have been better suited having taken the first round pick, however they see him in a completely different light than the rest of us.
After scoring 18 goals and 43 points in 78 games last season, Laughton has just 5 goals and 20 points through the club’s first 50 games. His ATOI has dropped from 18:17 to 15:19, his shooting percentage has been chopped by 6% from 10.6 last year to 4.6 this year, and his analytical numbers are near the bottom amongst his teammates.
He was expected to take a backseat on the offensive side of things with Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson returning to the fold, but it wasn’t supposed to be as drastic as it has been so far. He has suffered through several point droughts of 6+ games, goal droughts of 8+ games, and has just 2 goals in his last 17 games. The 4.6 shooting percentage is the number that stands out the most considering the fact that he was clicking at 17.6% in 2019-20, 10.1% in 2020-21, 10.0% in 2022-23, and 10.6% last year.
Similarly to Walker, the Flyers will assuredly have their price tag set. Unlike Walker however, if teams are unwilling to meet the price of acquisition, the Flyers will have no problems in keeping him around this season, into the summer, and beyond 2024. Teams covet Laughton-esque players for their playoff runs, so there’s a good chance someone is willing to spend exponentially.
Even through a rough 2023-24 season, Laughton carries a lot of trade value – or at least a lot more than we assume. There’s a chance we’re nearing the end of Laughton in a Flyers uniform, but if that is the case, that means Brière and company will receive a lucrative offer that they cannot refuse.
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