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Marcus Hayes: NHL Trade deadline: The Flyers can't afford to trade their 'glue guy,' Scott Laughton

Marcus Hayes, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Hockey

PHILADELPHIA — The NHL trade deadline looms March 8. Scott Laughton is the Flyers’ juiciest asset. He’s a versatile, tough center. He’s 29, and he’s under contract for the next two seasons at a very affordable price. The Flyers are committed to a rebuild, so he’s got to go ... Right?

Wrong.

They can’t afford to lose him. Not now. Not yet.

This has nothing to do with the team standing third in the Metropolitan Division at 65 points and with 29 wins, just two fewer than their total last season, but with 26 games to play. It has everything to do with being the cornerstone of a franchise rocked by a plague of injuries, stunning front-office turnover, hair-trigger coaching changes, and, most recently, its franchise goalie, Carter Hart, facing trial for sexual assault.

The one constant: Scott Laughton.

“Especially the last couple of years, he’s been our ‘glue guy,’ ” Sean Couturier said.

 

Rebuilding teams need a “glue guy.” A guy who can play with anybody, can do every job, can answer every question, can deal with every mood of a very moody coach. John Tortorella refused to name a captain until last week, when Couturier got the “C.” Laughton carried an “A” as an alternate ... to no one. But he served as the de facto captain through turmoil and controversy. Laughton’s value to the Flyers lies far deeper than any stat on any sheet.

While Laughton has never produced more than the 18 goals and 25 assists he tallied last season, and while he won’t come close to those numbers this year, he’s as big a reason as any that the Flyers’ rebuild is a year or two ahead of schedule. Certainly, the Flyers would be lesser without the return of Couturier from back surgery, the ascension of Travis Konecny from rink rat to All-Star, the unexpected contribution of goalie Sam Errson in the absence of Hart, and the eerily steady hand of a mellowed Tortorella.

But last season, when Tortorella inherited a team that had just traded Claude Giroux, its captain and its second-best player ever, Tortorella preached culture change. With the Flyers’ world spiraling toward hockey’s gutter, Laughton delivered intangibles that created that culture.

“We’re so lucky to have him,” said defenseman Travis Sanheim. “A lot of teams would love to have guys like that on their roster. Those are hard guys to replace. They do so much. They’re good in the [dressing] room. They can play anywhere in your lineup. They can play both special teams.”

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