As we approach the NHL trade deadline, speculation is increasing as to what the Toronto Maple Leafs might do and who might be a great fit for their roster going forward. While lately the talk has been about acquiring a goaltender, the main priority still appears to be a forward that can fit into the top-six.
Recently, Sportsnet’s Luke Fox mentioned Philadelphia Flyers forward Scott Laughton as someone who checks off all the boxes and could be a key piece for the team for a deep playoff push. Laughton is definitely an intriguing name, as he ranks ninth on TSN’s Trade Bait List. Many teams would love to have him on their roster as he’s considered to be a very solid, well-rounded player that can be used in any situation.
The Flyers are currently fighting for a playoff spot and might be looking to move on from the 26-year-old. Laughton’s style of play and character could very well be an option for general manager Kyle Dubas if he doesn’t decide to make a splash at the deadline. Here is why acquiring him could be a solid move for the Maple Leafs.
Maple Leafs Getting a Versatile Player
He may not be a big name player like Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils that the Maple Leafs have been reported to be in on, but Laughton’s play on both sides of the puck would be a real asset for them. He brings a skillset that makes him a Swiss Army Knife type of player. Similar to the play of Zach Hyman, having another player of that skillset definitely wouldn’t hurt at all.
His speed, energy and physical presence– the same qualities that Hyman possesses– are going to be key going forward if they want to make a deep playoff run. He plays with a high level of intensity and his attitude will definitely benefit the Maple Leafs. Role players like him can provide a significant difference in those big moments of a game.
While his production isn’t like Hyman’s 26 points this season, Laughton can still provide an impact offensively as he has a respectable 17 points in 34 games with the Flyers. Over an 82-game season, that would be 40 points. His production on the Maple Leafs would have him below Jason Spezza (21 points) and tied with Alexander Kerfoot and Jake Muzzin (17 points). Laughton posted a career high 32 points in 2018-19. He had 27 points last season and would’ve been on pace to surpass that total slightly if he wasn’t battling through injuries.
Defensively, Laughton appears to be reliable when he’s on the ice especially in regards to goals against. According to Natural Stat Trick, Laughton has been on for 13 five-on-five goals against which ranks him third on the Flyers (in descending order), with a minimum of 100 minutes played. His nine high danger goals against puts him fourth overall. Having those low goals against numbers shows his defensive capabilities in his own end.
Laughton has also seen quite a bit of time on the penalty kill as he ranks fourth on the Flyers in short handed time on ice per game, averaging 1:55. Having another two-way player that can be utilized effectively at 5-on-5 and on the penalty kill will be a big win if they’re able to acquire someone like Laughton.
In addition, he brings a very tenacious game, as he likes to play the body. Laughton ranks first on the Flyers in hits with 95. If he were on the Maple Leafs, he would still hold that spot. Having the extra aggressive style and mentality would make the Maple Leafs tougher to go up against. His impact could be that similar to what Blake Coleman was for the Tampa Bay Lightning when they acquired him. Things seemed to have worked out as he was an integral part of their success as they won the Stanley Cup last season.
Where Would Laughton Fit In?
Laughton comes in with a really great cap hit with $2.3 million and is a dual positional player, playing both on the wing and centre. He can play anywhere on a Maple Leafs team that’s looking to increase it’s depth up front. This versatility could give head coach Sheldon Keefe even more options at his disposal.
Laughton has the skill to possibly be a top-six player or even assume his role as a third line winger or centreman that could make life difficult for the opposition. The recent play of Alex Galchenyuk would make things interesting as he has caught the eyes of many on the team, even earning praise from the captain. After he scored his first goal as a Maple Leaf against the Calgary Flames, it’s easy to see why maybe he could lock himself in that position.
Galchenyuk has provided great support with John Tavares and William Nylander as he’s been a strong addition on the left wing, getting in on the forecheck and utilizing his shot. If Galchenyuk’s consistency continues as we’ve seen, then Laughton will no doubt succeed on the third line. The big question would be, who comes out?
Kerfoot’s name has constantly been in trade discussion as he’s also on TSN’s Trade Bait List (33rd). It makes sense that Kerfoot, who carries a $3.5 million cap hit, is easily expandable as Laughton can be a better option who can provide more upside at a cheaper price. If the Maple Leafs plan to have Laughton as part of the future, it’s possible that they can protect him for the expansion draft as one of the seven forwards if they go that route.
If that isn’t enticing enough, the Maple Leafs would have to pay slightly more in order to try and acquire Laughton. The Maple Leafs could also use a second- round pick or a B-level prospect. They have plenty of assets at their disposal and could be a good deal without giving up a whole lot in the process.
While Laughton isn’t considered a top-six candidate, he has the potential to move up into that role, when needed, based on his style of play. His intensity and ability to be an offensive contributor while still making an impact defensively will greatly be of value to the Maple Leafs going forward.