The Flyers improved their depth at forward on Monday ahead of the NHL’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, adding center/winger Derek Grant and center/winger Nate Thompson in separate deals.
Will it be enough to offset major moves made by two teams chasing them, Carolina and the New York Islanders?
There are 20 regular-season games left to find out.
Anaheim sent the 6-foot-3, 206-pound Grant to the Flyers for a fourth-round draft pick and minor-league forward Kyle Criscuolo, a South Jersey product.
The Flyers also sent a 2021 fifth-round draft pick to Montreal for the 6-1, 207-pound Thompson, a hard-nosed player who had been centering former Flyers Jordan Weal and Nick Cousins on the Canadiens’ fourth line.
Both are expected to be in the lineup Tuesday against visiting San Jose, coach Alain Vigneault said.
“These are two big bodies with pretty good experience and I think it’ll help us down the road,” center Sean Couturier said.
“They’re veteran guys and heavy players,” center Kevin Hayes said. “... I’ve been in that situation before, and they’re probably both pretty excited to go from non-playoff teams -- no disrespect to those teams -- to a team that is battling to put itself in a good spot for the playoffs. It’s exciting. It’s never fun to leave your friends and memories, but once you get beyond that point, it’s exciting to be in a win-now mentality and not in a rebuild -- and I think that’s what we have here."
Thompson (55.1% on draws) and Grant (51.4%) have been good in the faceoff circle and have been solid on the penalty kill this season.
Connor Bunnaman, the Flyers’ fourth-line center, and second-line left winger Joel Farabee were sent to the Phantoms. That makes them eligible to play in the AHL the rest of the season, though they can be recalled.
Vigneault, whose team is on a 13-5-2 run, said he was not concerned about the Flyers’ chemistry being altered by taking Farabee and Bunnaman out of the lineup and replacing them with Grant and Thompson.
“I believe we’re helping the chemistry,” Vigneault said, adding a lot of the veterans “wanted the organization to step forward” and make moves. “That’s definitely what we’re doing.”
Thompson will be the fourth-line center and be used on the penalty kill, Vigneault said. He was unsure about where Grant would slot in the lineup, but he expected to play him at wing.
Grant, 29, who was used on the power play and penalty kill in Anaheim, had a career-high 14 goals -- despite starting 70% of his shifts in the defensive zone -- and 20 points in 49 games with the Ducks this season. His cap hit is the minimum, $700,000, and he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
“I’ve always looked at my game from a defensive standpoint as being the most important,” Grant said. “But obviously when you get a chance to contribute offensively ... it’s something I take a lot of pride in as well.”
Thompson called Grant “hard to play against.”
Thompson, 35, who has a $1 million cap hit and is a pending free agent in July, had four goals, 14 points, and a minus-2 rating with the Habs this season. He was also used as a penalty killer.
“It’s a hat trick,” Thompson said, referring to the fact he has been dealt at the trade deadline the last three seasons.
Thompson is a 13-year NHL veteran.
“I’m just excited. I’m going to relish this opportunity,” said Thompson, who became friends with former Flyer Matt Carle while growing up in Alaska.
The Flyers’ division rivals also made moves Monday, some big, some minor. (Some rivals made moves before the deadline, like Pittsburgh getting left winger Jason Zucker, and Washington acquiring defenseman Brenden Dillon.)
The Islanders and Hurricanes, teams chasing the Flyers in the playoff race, added Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Vincent Trocheck, respectively. Both were major acquisitions.
The Isles paid a lot for Pageau. They sent a conditional first-round pick and a second-rounder, both in June, to Ottawa. They also would trade a conditional third-round pick in 2022, if the Isles win the Stanley Cup this season.
The Islanders then signed Pageau, who could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1, to a six-year contract extension that reportedly carries an annual $5 million salary-cap hit.
“I don’t really believe this was the best rental talent I’ve ever seen,” said Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, who didn’t have the cap space to acquire some of the marquee forwards unless he dealt an expensive player of his own.
Carolina acquired Trocheck for Erik Haula, Lucas Wallmark, Eetu Luostarinen, and Chase Priskie. The Canes later added defensemen Sami Vatanen (trade with New Jersey) and Brady Skjei (trade with Rangers).
The Penguins acquired veteran Patrick Marleau by sending a third-round pick to San Jose, and added forwards Conor Sheary and Evan Rodrigues as they dealt forward Dominik Kahun to Buffalo.
In another move involving a division rival, Chris Kreider surprisingly re-signed with the New York Rangers. He reportedly signed for seven years, with an average annual salary of $6.5 million.
Hayes liked the Flyers’ trades.
“We’re putting ourselves in a position to play for a long time come April,” he said.
Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere said that besides the experience, Grant and Thompson give the Flyers some size.
“I call them playoff bodies, for sure. You look at the couple teams that won, they had some big bodies like that," he said, referring to Stanley Cup champions Washington in 2018 and St. Louis last year. “So I think that’s a huge positive for us.”
“We all want to play in the playoffs, and we all want to play for the Stanley Cup," Grant said. “And when you get a chance to join a team that has been playing so well, it’s exciting for me. I’m excited to get there and make a good push."