The latest addition to the Philadelphia Flyers was met with great disapproval by fans after general manager Chuck Fletcher failed to make a major splash during the NHL’s free agency period. He signed veteran winger and known fourth-line grinder Nicolas Deslauriers to a four-year contract worth $1.75 million annually. Deslauriers played 81 games last season with the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild where he tallied eight goals, five assists, and 113 penalty minutes.
The 31-year-old forward was a key target for the Flyers this offseason as the organization could not go after bigger names like Johnny Gaudreau because of limited cap space. While he is nowhere near the caliber of a player like him, Deslauriers fills a spot on the roster that was needed in the eye of management. Fletcher spoke about the value of adding a tough forward to the lineup next year immediately following the addition.
“There was a pretty aggressive market for him,” he said. “Players like Nic Deslauriers are hard to find. He’s a guy that we like, we think he moves well, he forechecks well, he’s a player that has a pretty good understanding of the defensive side of the game.”
The 6-foot-1, 220-pounder is expected to play alongside Patrick Brown and Zack MacEwen on the fourth line next season. Although not the most ideal fourth line for an NHL franchise, they will be among one of the most difficult to play against in the league due to their physical presence on the ice. Despite all the backlash and criticism, he might be of more value than most fans care to admit.
Deslauriers Adds Depth and Value
Originally drafted 84th overall by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Deslauriers has played 506 regular season games with the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ducks, and Wild. After bouncing around the league for the past few years, the rugged forward has finally found a new home in Philadelphia, more closely suited to his style of play. Throughout his career, he has collected 85 points (44 goals and 41 assists) and 521 penalty minutes.
Before signing with Philadelphia, he explored the market and attracted general interest from other teams as a first-time free agent, but ultimately decided that the orange and black were the best fit for him at this point in his career. Although he is not known as a goal scorer or playmaker, the veteran forward will be of great value to the Flyers’ lineup over the course of the season.
“I had a decent chat with Chuck and with Torts just before But I was just the fit there. I think every time I played against them, it was kind of a rough and tough game. The structure of not just how the team is but the city; it’s a blue-collar city. It wasn’t an easy decision but at the same time, after talking to Chuck and Torts, I’m excited for sure,” he said.
“A lot of teams were calling. I put myself in a situation to test the market for the first time… The full talk with Chuck, the organization wants to take a step forward. I think the fit was good.”
The Saint-Anicet, Quebec native embodies the true meaning of what it means to be a member of the “Broad Street Bullies” style of Flyers’ hockey. In time the fans will grow to appreciate his presence on the ice, but only if he can prove his worth over the next couple of seasons.
Deslauriers Still Has a Lot to Prove
Being the only significant signing of free agency for the franchise, Deslauriers is going to have to do more than just be a physical force in the lineup. He fully understood his role coming into the organization as it is not much different from what he is used to. The team will mainly rely on his ability to grind teams down and kill penalties, but he also knows that he needs to do more.
“I’ve been working hard every summer just for that,” he said. “The league is getting faster, I’ve been doing a lot of power skating. I know my age and everything. This league is getting younger and faster. So I know what I have to bring.”
“I don’t need Chuck to tell me what I need to do, I know what I have to do, I know what I have to bring and I know why he brought me on.”
As long as Deslauriers is more than willing to do his job every single night and maybe contribute offensively every once in a while, there is no reason Flyers fans won’t fall in love with him. Unfortunately, his image will forever be tainted because he was the player the organization signed instead of hometown talent, but only time will tell if he can break that mantra and become a fan favorite.