With the 2021 Expansion Draft quickly approaching, the Pod Street Bullies are discussing the pros and cons of protecting or exposing each player to the Seattle Kraken. Leading up to the Expansion Draft, all NHL teams, excluding the Vegas Golden Knights, must protect 11 players including 7 forwards, 3 defenseman and 1 goalie. There are some conditions in regards to the players that can be protected or exposed to the Seattle Kraken in which you can find on NHL.com. If you remember when the Golden Knights entered the league, the conditions have not changed.
In this piece, we are going to dive into the future of center Scott Laughton. Laughton, a former first round draft pick by the Philadelphia Flyers, has grown into a consistent middle six forward. Laughton struggled to find his game early in his career, but in recent years, he has developed into a dependable and quality 2 way player. He has become known for being a physical player that isn’t afraid to go hard into the corners on the forecheck, but also being an offensive threat at times as well.
This previous year, Laughton was slotted in many different positions. Many writers would consider Laughton a Swiss Army knife of sorts, where you would find him being thrown anywhere from the second to the fourth line. He would also be depended on to kill penalties on occasions. By far, Laughton played his best in this shortened season, recording 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) and a +13 in 49 games. A shortened season due to injuries and the COVID-19 pandemic, Laughton still found a way to be productive for the Philadelphia Flyers.
Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers have many decisions to make in regards to which players to keep and which to expose to the Seattle Kraken. There are many players that are “no brainers” to keep because of the status of their contracts or their guaranteed roster spot with the club. At the end of this upcoming season, Laughton becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA). What does this mean for Fletcher? Either sign him to protect him from the Expansion Draft or let him be exposed to the Draft and possibly allow him to test Free Agency. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of protecting or exposing the man they call “The Sergeant.”
When Scott Laughton was drafted, he had already established a strong two-way game and over time with the right coaches, he has developed that attribute into a very physical and successful game. Typically when you see Laughton on the ice, he is known for going in on the forecheck and landing big, physical hits on the opposing teams defensemen. This nitty-gritty play helped the Flyers establish a style of play that they had been lacking in previous years.
Laughton was also found on the Penalty Kill during the majority of the season. Following a season where the Flyers ranked 26th in Penalty Killing, the 2020 campaign left plenty of room for improvement. With the addition of Assistant Coach Mike Yeo, the Flyers improved their ranking to 11th in the NHL. Laughton among many others that were added into the fray helped shape a very successful PK this year. Laughton brought that hard nosed play and he averaged just shy of 2 minutes of time on ice (TOI) for the PK. Familiarize yourself with the Haye’s shorthanded goal that was caused by an aggressive Laughton below.
Swiss Army Knife
When did you ever find Laughton consistently on the same line during the regular season? There were times that Scott was being bounced all throughout the lineup night in and night out. Fans couldn’t keep up with where he was going to slot in. This wasn’t due to struggling play, but rather that Vigneault could depend on Laughts to elevate his game with whomever he was playing alongside. During the course of the 2019-2020 season, Laughton was on a combined 9 different lines. He was always found alongside the same six names just in varying positions. He could be found with the likes of Hayes, Konecny, Pitlick, van Riemsdyk, Farabee and Raffl.
Laughton, a natural centerman, has been found more often on the left wing. This is what makes Laughton so versatile in his role as a middle six forward. If he is playing towards the bottom of the lineup, this is where you will most likely find him playing center. Say he is playing on a line with Hayes and Konecny, Laughton transitions to the wing due to Hayes being slotted as our second line center. But, if Hayes gets tossed out of the faceoff circle, the Flyers have another natural centerman ready to take the draw in Laughton. AV has been very creative in getting Laughton producing offensively, while still being that defensive threat as well.
Expecting a Payday?
Currently, Laughton is signed through the end of this upcoming season with a cap hit of $2.3 million. Having a very successful season during the 2020 campaign and progressing his overall play, it’s possible to see Laughton asking for a little bit of a raise. If he shows another impressive offensive-minded season and his overall game skills improve, Chuck Fletcher might be in a little bit of trouble. With the likes of Travis Sanheim, Michael Raffl, Nolan Patrick and Carter Hart also being owed new contracts next offseason, can the Flyers fit Laughton into their long term plan?
If Laughton continues to surge as a contributing factor on the offensive and defensive sides of the game, he absolutely deserves a promotion in the terms of money. His promotion can’t hit the books too heavy due to other deserving players looking to sign new contracts. We should expect to see Laughton ask for an annual contract value between $3-4 million, while the Flyers camp will most likely try to keep that contract value closer to the $3-3.5 million range. In order to protect Laughton from the draft, they would have to sign him to a contract shortly after the season ends.
Clogging the Pipeline?
The Philadelphia Flyers have arguably the deepest and purest prospect pipeline in the entire NHL. Could Scott Laughton be clogging and preventing these players from breaking the mould? There are players with the same skill set as Laughton that are ready to make the jump from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to the big show. Names like Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski, which Flyers fans were able to get a small sample size of last year, are right on the doorstep. Both of these names are appropriate replacements for a player like Scott Laughton.
These players could slot right into a third line wing spot and still bring the physical presence that Laughton has done. Both Twarynski and Bunnaman would bring in smaller cap hits than Laughts currently does and could possibly bring in for the future. Both players have shown small glimmers of hope when they are brought in to fill a role of an injured player. Would it be smart of Fletcher to expose Laughton to the draft and anticipate filling his role with the likes of Twarynski or Bunnaman?
There are a lot different perspectives on whether or not to keep a player like Scott Laughton. As Flyers fans, we have had the pleasure of watch The Sergeant develop into the player he is today. Laughton has become AV’s multi-tool up and down the lineup and his production on both sides of the puck argue that he has solidified his spot on this team. Could that recent success give Scott an egregious ego, making him believe that he deserves a bigger contract than he already does? Or could his presence in the lineup be blocking other NHL ready players in the organization? If both the Flyers and Laughton’s camp were to agree on a team friendly contract, we could be seeing Laughton in the Orange and Black for a couple more years.
Photo Credit – Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire