The Flyers made two trades today.
First, they sent a 2021 5th round pick to Montreal for 35-year-old center Nate Thompson.
Secondly, they traded minor leaguer Kyle Criscuolo and a 2020 4th round pick (the Flyers had two of them) to Anaheim for soon-to-be 30-year-old center Derek Grant.
Neither trade really impacts the cap. Thompson counts as only $1 million against the cap (and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season) and Grant counts as only $700,000 (and is also an unrestricted free agent after the season), and gives the Flyers some flexibility with players they can shift back to the AHL without going through waivers in case of an injury.
Nevertheless, this, of course upsets the Flyers faithful.
Here’s an example of a tweet I got from a Flyers fan this morning:
That was before Pittsburgh did this:
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) February 24, 2020
They traded a third round pick to San Jose for Marleau.
Let me stem the tide of malcontent really quickly: the Flyers are going about this the right way.
With the way the Flyers have gelled in the past two months and the way they’re playing, there isn’t a need to make a big splash to this roster. This is a system team and as Ken Hitchcock always used to say, “The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
Adding a bigger name veteran like Marleau or Kovalchuk for a third rounder, or blowing your first rounder on a rental like Pageau doesn’t make sense for the whole of the team.
But, giving up a fifth round pick for a veteran who is comfortable playing a fourth line role and who brings experience, personality and some gravitas to the locker room and only having to part with a fifth round pick two drafts away makes a lot of sense.
Additionally, trading a career minor leaguer and a fourth round pick for a guy who has 14 goals this season in Grant really adds to the depth of the team.
A lot of early reports are that Thompson is going to be a healthy scratch, but I think Thompson will replace Connor Bunnaman as the fourth line center.
That’s no knock on Bunnaman. He’s played well in his time with the Flyers, but Thompson brings a different element.
He’s got a good amount of playoff experience. He’s been playing a bottom six role for practically his entire career. Oh, and there’s this:
He’s winning faceoffs at a 55% clip this season and has made 61 percent of his zone starts in the defensive zone. He’s reliable to win those important draws in their own end and allows coach Alain Vigneault to feel more comfortable playing that fourth line in all situations having a veteran in the middle with Michael Raffl and likely Tyler Pitlick now that Grant has also been added.
Thompson also has a reputation as being a hard-worker off the ice with a leadership mentality and something that can rub off on younger players.
Thompson had four goals and 10 assists for 14 points in 63 games for the Canadiens, averaging 12:48 of ice time.
As for Grant, trading for him makes it seem more likely that Nolan Patrick isn’t going to be in the Flyers postseason plans. Grant fits better on the third line and allows Scott Laughton to move back to wing, where he is a better fit.
This probably drops Pitlick to the fourth line and makes Aube-Kubel and Bunnaman the young, extra forwards as the Flyers make their push to the playoffs.
These are no-lose trades for the Flyers. They gave up a pair of lottery ticket draft picks, one that is more than a year away, and an AHL-only guy for two veteran players to solidify the bottom six of the lineup. Even if Thompson ends up being an extra guy (which I don’t think he will), both he and Grant can bring a lot to this team and fit into the mold that Vigneault has created seamlessly.
The Flyers are handling this deadline right so far… still a few hours to go though.
Anthony also says Grant is one of the best penalty killers in the league, and he has three shorthanded goals this season – Kinkead