A look at the Flyer’s newest additions at the trade deadline, and what they mean for this team moving forward.
The Flyers were buyers this deadline, picking up two bottom-six forwards as they look towards a possible play off run. The Flyers first added FWD Nate Thompson from Montreal in a trade for a 5th Round Pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Later on in the day, the Flyers again made a move, trading FWD Kyle Criscuolo along with a 4th Round Pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft to the Anaheim Ducks for FWD Derek Grant. The Flyers rounded out the 2020 Deadline with a prospect swap between Defensemen TJ Brennan to the Chicago Blackhawks for FWD Nathan Noel.
While these moves seem pretty lackluster in terms of adding a flashy player, Chuck Fletcher was able to add a pair of bottom six forwards who primarily play center, a position the team has been looking to bolster this season.
Nate Thompson, C, #44
Nate Thompson is a 34 year old center from Anchorage, Alaska. He entered the league in 2003 as a 6th rounder for the Bruins. He played in the AHL until 2006, when he first cracked the Bruins roster (for only 4 games albeit). During his first few seasons, he played bottom-six minutes, slotting no more then 10 points until the 2010-2011 season, when he was playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning. That year, he scored 10 goals with 15 assists, tallying 25 points. That was his career high as far as points go, and still is to this day. Thompson is known as a bottom-six guy, who plays with grit, and is well liked across the league. He provides solid work on the penalty kill. The last three seasons, Thompson was traded at the deadline. He has been to the playoffs on multiple occasions. In the playoffs, he played with Tampa, Anaheim, and the Kings. He has played a total of 62 playoff games, with 7 goals, 11 assists, and a 54% FOW.
For the Flyers, this is certainly a depth add. The team was one injury away from relying on an AHL player at center, and in the Playoffs, this is a dangerous proposition. Thompson is a team guy, with more upside than Chris Stewart, who plays solid PK minutes and contributes on the forecheck when he’s on the ice. He comes in with a high faceoff win percentage, which I know isn’t much, but it is certainly helpful when your guys are winning faceoffs and the other team isn’t. I would presume he will catch some games here, and that he will contribute on and off the ice heading into and through the playoff run.
Derek Grant, C, #38
Derek Grant is a 29 year old Canadian from Abbotsford, BC. He entered the NHL in the 6th round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Ottawa Senators. He cracked the NHL roster for the Sens in 2012, but didn’t record a point until the following season during a 20 game stint. His break out year occurred in the 2017-2018 after he joined the Anaheim Ducks. In 66 games, he recorded 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points. In 18-19, he played 20 games in Pittsburgh before returning to the Ducks, where he played until he was traded to the Flyers on Monday. So far this season for the Ducks, Grant has recorded 14 goals and 6 assists in 49 games. Grant is currently playing his career best hockey. He recorded numbers around a worse team in the Ducks, that rank him in the top 6 for scoring amongst the Philadelphia Flyers.
This move is a little better in return than the one for Thompson. The Flyers picked up a guy who plays under the radar, and is in the midst of his best season in the NHL so far. He recorded a hat trick against the defending cup champion St. Louis Blues back in November (including a disgusting take away at the Blues blue line, with some dirty dangling to fool Binnington, you should definitley click the link and watch that). All in all, this is a great add for the Flyers. They dumped a pick and a prospect (who has bounced around AHL teams across the league for the past couple seasons) for a guy who can probably slot in as a 4th line center for the remaining season. I suspect he will out preform Thompson, however, placing them both in the line up as your bottom two centers leaves Laughton available to play the wing.
Nathan Noel is a 22 year old Canadian born center from Saint Johns, NL. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks. During his time there, he played primarily in the ECHL, with two stints in the AHL that were less than inspiring. This year in the ECHL, he has notched 6 goals and 11 assists in 39 games played. He was immediately signed to the Reading Royals (the Flyers ECHL team) after this trade. He is regarded as an offensive center-men. The Flyers added him to their prospect pool to develop and see if he may turn into a player that could crack the AHL soon enough.
What’s this tell us?
The Flyers bolstered their center depth at the deadline with two players who come in with low cap hits. The Flyers steered away from making moves that would set them up for cap struggles in future years. What these moves tell me is that the Flyers are very happy with their team as it is. With guys like Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom injured, Farabee and Frost coming into their own, and surprisingly good additions like NAK and Pitlick, the Flyers are looking like a very dangerous team down the road. They are happy with the chemistry they have now, and I feel that Grant can slot in nicely as a mainstay on this lineup now and in the future. He is playing great hockey this season, and when Nolan Patrick makes a return to the line-up, a center pool of Couterier-Hayes-Patrick-Grant places Giroux and Laughton on the wings where they have shown to be at their best. This also gives guys like Farabee and Frost the ability to play more AHL minutes, where they will be in bigger roles with more ice time to produce. While Thompson was another addition at this deadline, he may end up being depth in case of an injury. Even if that is the case, he is a solid rental guy that could be a big factor come the Playoffs.
I could easily see a scenario where Grant stays around come next season. It will depend on his play, and how they can resign him. Next year, the Flyers will have several guys to resign, including Patrick, Lindblom, Pitlick, NAK, Phil Myers, Robert Hagg, Justin Braun, and Brian Elliott. I think it is likely that the Flyers will consider adding Grant long term, however I am not sure if they will do the same with Thompson. Thompson carries a 1 Mil cap hit, Grant 700K. As a consequence, the Flyers loaned Joel Farabee and Conor Bunnamen to the AHL. While it appeared that these would be paper moves at the deadline, Chuck Fletcher revealed that both players will see some games in Lehigh Valley. Farabee had a rough outing on Saturday, and hopefully this send down will give him an opportunity to play big offensive minutes and gain some additional confidence for the remainder of the season.
– Stan Morrison