Flyers Sign RFA Scott Laughton to 2-Year Contract
And then there were two.
The Philadelphia Flyers have re-signed (former) RFA center and left winger Scott Laughton to a 2-year contract with a $2.3 million cap hit, avoiding arbitration. Hooray! How do you feel, Scott?
Laughton was drafted twentieth in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by then-GM Paul Holmgren. Though Laughton made his NHL debut the very next season, he wound up being sent back to junior after just five games. He played 104 games between 2014-2016 with the big club, but struggled to carve out a role. As a result, Laughton spent most of the 2016-17 season in the AHL, relearning his game. Once a top scorer in junior, it appeared Laughton's only hope to be an everyday player was as a bottom-sixer and penalty killer.
Over the last two years, Laughton has been just that for the Flyers. In fact, he's been one of the better players in that role in the NHL. Laughton has received an average of under 13 minutes of time on ice the last two years. He has sparingly been used on the power play, and a lot of his 5-v-5 minutes have been matched against top competition. He has also spent a lot of minutes playing alongside scrubs like Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise, Phil Varone, and Corban Knight, among others.
However, Laughton has become one of the better bottom-six forwards in the NHL over those two seasons. He put up a career-high 32 points in the 2018-19 season, which is very good considering his unfavorable minutes. His play driving numbers have been a bit more inconsistent - he was a good 51% Corsi last year, but that dipped all the way to 44% this season. In fairness, few drove play for the Flyers well last year, especially under Scott Gordon. But Laughton was among the lowest of the low.
Getting this deal done now means the Flyers do not have to go to arbitration. For those unfamiliar, arbitration is available to RFAs with a certain amount of service time (Provy and TK are not eligible for it). The player and the team each select a value they believe they are worth, then present their cases to an independent arbitrator. He or she will decide how much money the player will make (usually split close to the middle). All reports are that it can be an ugly process, and teams and players alike are usually willing to do whatever it takes to avoid it.
As mentioned initially, it means the Flyers are down to two RFAs - Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov. Not much has come up about TK, but talks have been a bit slow with Provy, according to Fletcher. As with most of the other big name RFAs, no one wants to sign first and set the market, fearing others could make much more than them. Once arbitration (begins July 20) gets the ball rolling, it's possible we could see some more progress being made.
For the record, the deal walks the 25-year old into unrestricted free agency at the contract's conclusion. Laughton will likely begin the year as the Flyers fourth-line center, which seems a little low for a $2.3 million cap hit, even if it is probably worth it for the value Laughton provides. He could start the year at third line left wing if Frost and Farabee can't crack the opening night roster.
In either role, Laughton provides a tenacious play-style with excellent defense and decent offensive upside. If the Flyers were to use him in on the third line for 82 times and give him some power play time, it's possible Laughton could score 40-45 points a season. Maybe he does this year, but it's going to be a challenge. The money may seem like a lot for a fourth liner, but Laughton has shown that he can be more than that over the last two years. If he continues to grow, he could be a key yet underrated part on what hopefully becomes a great Flyers team.