Chuck Fletcher was a seller on trade-deadline day after all.
Goodbye To Gustafsson
The Philadelphia Flyers parted ways with both defenseman Erik Gustafsson and forward Michael Raffl ahead of Monday’s deadline at 3 p.m. ET. Gustafsson was dealt to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for St. Louis’ previously acquired seventh-round draft pick in 2022, while Raffl went to the Washington Capitals in exchange for Vegas’ previously acquired fifth-rounder in 2021.
The Flyers retain 50 percent of Gustafsson’s remaining salary for this season ($3 million) and 25 percent of Raffl’s ($1.4 million in real dollars). Both players will be unrestricted free agents at the end of this season.
Gustafsson’s departure was not a surprise. Fletcher scooped up the 29-year-old three days after free agency opened last October, in hopes that he could help fill the void left by the retired Matt Niskanen.
But as more of an offensive defenseman, Gustafsson was really never a fit. He got off to a great start, with two assists in his first game as a Flyer back in January, but he leaves the club with one goal and nine assists in 24 games. He was healthy scratched in 10 of his last 11 games with the Flyers. In his final appearance, he was minus-2 in Philadelphia’s 6-1 loss to Buffalo on March 31.
Raffl Reluctantly Dealt
Raffl’s departure marks the end of an era. Originally signed as a 24-year-old free agent in 2013, the Austrian forward has been a Flyer for his entire NHL career, amassing 81 goals and 79 assists over 504 games as a bottom-six winger. He plays an energetic game with a bit of an edge. But at 32, it’s unlikely that he would have been re-signed in the offseason.
Raffl had three goals and five assists in 34 games with the Flyers this season, a bit below his usual level of production. He was out of the lineup for seven games in total, including missing four games with a hand injury in early March.
Chuck Fletcher said Michael Raffl played hurt, is hurt right now and almost refused to be taken out of the lineup.
Fletcher said Flyers can't thank him enough for his service to the organization.
— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) April 12, 2021
With the Raffl deal, Fletcher basically conceded that the Flyers’ playoff push is all-but-over.
Chuck Fletcher also said that if the Flyers reality were different and they'd made up ground on Boston this past week, he'd have been inclined to ride out the season with Raffl despite the fact he'll be out about two more weeks due to injury.
— Bill Meltzer (@billmeltzer) April 12, 2021
Raffl’s injury means that he won’t be in the lineup when the Flyers visit the Capitals on Tuesday, sitting four points behind the fourth-place Bruins in the East Division standings.
In their other games this week, the Flyers visit Pittsburgh on Thursday, then host the Caps and Islanders for a weekend back-to-back.
Opportunities For Laczynski, Gostisbehere
With an additional roster spot now open at forward, that’s good news for Tanner Laczynski. The 23-year-old plays the same kind of hard-working game that Raffl did. He’s still looking for his first NHL point, but has made a positive impression on Alain Vigneault in his first three games with the Flyers.
Meanwhile, Gustafsson’s departure is a positive for Shayne Gostisbehere, who has raised his game over the past couple of weeks. He cleared waivers on March 30 and was briefly placed on the taxi squad, but has been back in the lineup for the last six games. He has three goals in his last four games and is now up to eight goals and 15 points in 31 games — the same level of production as his 2018-19 season.
Gostisbehere wears his heart on his sleeve and has emerged as an emotional leader as the Flyers weather the ebbs and flows of this rollercoaster season.
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Laughton Locked Up
Also on Monday, the Flyers announced that they’d re-signed forward Scott Laughton. His five-year contract extension carries an average annual value of $3 million per season.
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) April 12, 2021
Laughton, now 26, was selected by the Flyers in the first round of the 2012 draft. In 359 career NHL games, the versatile Canadian has recorded 51 goals and 72 assists for 123 points. This season, with seven goals and 17 points in 38 games, Laughton is producing at a rate above his career average. This is despite his current 12-game pointless streak.
If a deal hadn’t been reached, Laughton most likely would have been traded, as there was interest from other clubs. He was also set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.
“Those kind of players are hard to get,” Fletcher told the media about Laughton on Monday. “Scott was drafted by the Flyers, we developed him, and he loves being a Flyer. At the end of the day, he made a commitment to us today to sign and stay with us.
“I think we have a couple other holes on our team,” Fletcher went on to admit. “The thought of creating an additional hole, to me, wasn’t very appealing.
“He’s part of the solution for us going forward. We were able to lock him up to a contract that we feel works for us going forward. And, obviously, it works for Scott.”