Scott Laughton glad to have job security; Flyers sign free-agent center
The Flyers also made news Tuesday by signing Jackson Cates, a free-agent center from Minnesota-Duluth.
For a few hours Monday, Flyers forward Scott Laughton — who, at the time, was going to be an unrestricted free agent after the season — didn’t know if he was being traded or staying with the team that drafted him in the first round in 2012.
By the time the trade deadline ended, however, Laughton couldn’t have been happier.
Not only was he remaining with the Flyers, but he had signed a five-year extension with an annual cap hit of $3 million.
“It was a huge relief, for sure,” Laughton, who recently got engaged, said after the Flyers’ morning skate Tuesday, preparing for that night’s game in Washington. “Pretty stressful couple hours in the morning for me, just not knowing what was going to happen. I’m just very thankful we got something done in the afternoon and I’m able to stay in Philly. I love it here. I’ve said it before: I believe in these guys and I believe in this group. I love this staff here and I love everyone around here.”
He tried to downplay his anxiety during the days leading up to Monday’s trade deadline, “but at the end of the day, it’s your life,” he said. “You’re signing something that’s going to have an effect on your family and everyone around you. So it’s a big decision and it weighs on the back of your mind.”
Laughton began Tuesday with seven goals, 17 points, and a plus-7 rating in 38 games.
“He brings his emotion and heart into every game,” coach Alain Vigneault said.
The Flyers entered Tuesday four points behind Boston for the final playoff spot, and the Bruins had two games in hand.
“Obviously, it’s not the year we wanted to have so far,” Laughton said, “but we’re still in the mix and we have to keep fighting and that’s what we’re going to do.”
About the only thing that didn’t go right for Laughton on Monday was seeing one of his best friends, Michael Raffl, traded to Washington. The two are close and have traveled together in Austria, visiting Raffl’s roots.
“He’s a really, really good friend of mine,” Laughton said. “It’s part of the business. He’s going to a good team , so I’m happy for him to go here and have a chance, but he’s more of a brother.”
Raffl is injured and did not face the Flyers on Tuesday.
Laughton, who turns 27 next month, said it was nice to get security with his contract. “I want to be a part of something here where we can do something special, and having that term is part of that and just being a part of the group here and trying to win the Cup,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work hard and push for that goal. I know everyone around here is going to try to do the same.”
Flyers sign center
The Flyers signed free agent Jackson Cates, a 6-foot, 190-pound center from Minnesota-Duluth, to a two-year entry-level deal Tuesday with an average annual value of $925,000. The contract starts this year.
Cates, 23, had 27 points (11 goals, 16 assists) in 28 games this season, and he helped the Bulldogs reach their fourth straight NCAA Frozen Four. The Minnesota native played all three seasons alongside his younger brother, Noah, a promising left winger who was drafted by the Flyers in the fifth round in 2017.
“Jackson is a player our staff has followed closely throughout his college career,” said Brent Flahr, a Flyers assistant general manager. “He’s a tenacious two-way center who has steadily improved his overall game each season.”
Cates was part of Minnesota-Duluth’s national championship team in 2018-19. In 96 career games, he finished with 27 goals and 64 points.
Flahr said Cates is a hard-nosed player in Laughton’s mold, and that he gets lots of “greasy” goals. After he goes through a quarantine, he will join the Flyers for the rest of the season, Flahr said
The Flyers are attempting to sign Cates’ brother, who will have to decide whether to turn pro or return to college for his senior season.
Brian Elliott got the start Tuesday, and Samuel Morin replaced Phil Myers in the lineup. ... The Flyers were 8-3-2 when numerous COVID-19 cases caused their season to be paused in February. Since then, they were 11-13-4 heading into Tuesday.