Tanner Laczynski has opened eyes in two games played. The Philadelphia Flyers must prime him for a roster spot in 2021-2022.
Though it’s been a small sample size at the NHL level, Tanner Laczynski has made quite the impression. As a fourth-line forward, he provides the needed spark to the bottom six. The Philadelphia Flyers have been looking for a balance of backchecking and speed to the offensive zone to battle for pucks deep. In two games, Laczynski displayed that in his game.
After experiencing success last season, the Flyers enter a retooling period in the upcoming offseason. Philadelphia must decide before the expansion draft on who to protect and who receives a contract extension in the offseason. Luckily, Laczynski will be exempt and under his entry-level contract.
To increase cap space, Laczynski should be a lock on the fourth line in 2021-2022. In all likelihood, Nolan Patrick could be available to the Kraken in the expansion draft. If Patrick is not Seattle’s selection, Michael Raffl should become a free agent to make space for Laczynski. He’ll be 33-years-old next season. Alain Vigneault and his scouting team seemingly favor Laczynski over Raffl.
Does it make sense to make Laczynski a permanent fixture in Philadelphia next season?
Why Laczynski Makes Sense For Flyers
Against playoff teams, the only opponents Laczynski played, he already has found success in the faceoff circle. Averaging just under nine minutes of ice time, he’s won 62.5% of his draws. On top of that feat, he nearly scored his first NHL goal against the New York Islanders. In the offensive zone, he’s shown progress.
Vigneault has noticed the progress, increasing Laczynski’s ice time over his two games. Against the Islanders, he played 8:17. In the Flyers’ only victory over the Boston Bruins, Laczynski notched 9:31.
As a team, Philadelphia drastically improved against quality opponents. Forward depth, featuring Laczynski, had a lot to do with that.
Consider extra possessions taken away from the Islanders and Bruins in the defensive zone.
On the fourth line, the Flyers have to mitigate players such as Casey Cizikas or Trent Frederic. Both players have played well against Philadelphia this season. Defensively, Laczynski keeps the puck away from those players more often than not. His play aligns well with Nicolas Aube-Kubel, who is known for being physical. If Laczynski continues to see ice time, his development will pick up where he left off against Boston before next season.
Why Raffl Will Become a Free Agent
The peak of his NHL career came in the 2015-2016 season. Then, Raffl was 27-years-old, and his offensive production has sharply decreased since. In a contract year, Raffl is underdelivering in his role on the fourth line.
Raffl is known for his forecheck, but Laczynski replaces that with his ability and youth. In 2021-2022, Raffl will be an unrestricted free agent following an average annual value earning of $1.6mil.
Dropping $1.6mil off the salary cap will allow the Flyers to afford a much-needed defenseman. Laczynski makes about $925k per season. Fletcher would be wise to invest in youth within the bottom six and recalibrate funds to the defense. After Erik Gustafsson moves on from Philadelphia, there will be an additional $3mil cleared. Awful buyout contracts from Andrew McDonald and David Schlemko alleviate an additional $2.516mil following this season.
Already, $6.441mil becomes available on those moves alone.
Now, Fletcher can rightfully pair Ivan Provorov with a stud defenseman on the top pair to provide help to his goaltending unit. If properly addressed, Carter Hart could bounce back in 2021-2022 from a disappointing season. Playing a financially savvy role this offseason makes for a very short retooling venture in the 2021 offseason. The Flyers have Cam York and Wade Allison signed to entry-level contracts, awaiting opportunities. Within the system, Philadelphia’s youth could put Vigneault and company back on track, returning to the playoffs with a vengeance.
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