VOORHEES – Even though the Flyers have been one of the best teams in the NHL over the past couple months, they know there’s always room for improvement.
That’s a major reason why they chose to make a pair of trades on Monday, adding experience and depth.
General manager Chuck Fletcher engineered these deals with that exact mindset.
The additions of forwards Nate Thompson from Montreal and Derek Grant from Anaheim gives the Flyers more pieces to move around the chessboard down the stretch and into possible playoff competition.
Both players are on the final years of their contracts.
“We were looking to upgrade our depth at forward,’’ Fletcher said in a press conference on Monday, moments after the 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline expired. “We’ve been carrying 12 forwards (the minimum) for awhile and they’ve played well but you always worry with 20 games to go, with injuries and all, that you’ve covered everything off.
“Grant has been an elite penalty killer, good on faceoffs, just a really smart player. Nate is a veteran, another player that has good experience in this league. A gritty player who plays hard and a great teammate.’’
The Flyers’ recent surge convinced Fletcher to add rather than stand still or subtract.
“We like our team, we liked our team before today,’’ Fletcher said. “Our players have earned the right not only to have some additions at the deadline but for the most part keep their roles.
“We weren’t looking to overhaul our team, weren’t looking to make dramatic changes. To me the summer is the best time to do that. This is more about depth.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault was all smiles when he greeted the media after a morning practice.
“It (the trades) was everybody on the staff analyzing where we are,’’ Vigneault said. “It was an easy conclusion to make. If we could improve our depth, we would do that.
“So far, that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been able to add a fourth-line centerman (Thompson) that’s going to help us on the PK (penalty kill).
“Grant’s got a little more versatility. He can play all three (forward) positions. He’s been used in a PK and a power play role. We felt like we needed a little more depth in this final push here.’’
Vigneault said Grant probably will start on the wing, an indication that he might leave Scott Laughton at third-line center for the time being.
The coach wants to get a look at both new players as soon as possible, which would be Tuesday’s home game against San Jose.
“Both in my mind have a chance to play tomorrow,’’ Vigneault said.
Kevin Hayes has established himself as the team’s second-line center. He’s played against Thompson and Grant enough to know what the Flyers are getting.
“They’re veteran guys, both heavy players,’’ Hayes said. “I know Thompson is a great penalty killer, really good faceoff guy. I know Grant is having a good year, 14 goals.
“I’ve been in that situation before, they’re both probably excited to from – no disrespect to their teams – a non-playoff team to a team that’s battling to put themselves in a good spot for the playoffs.’’
James van Riemsdyk believes in having plenty of depth and experience.
“We’ve put ourselves in a good spot but it’s really tight though,’’ JVR said. “We can’t take our foot off the gas. We’re only a few points up on a playoff spot so we have to keep it rolling.’’
First-line center Sean Couturier sounded like he welcomes the additions.
“Bringing in some experience always helps,’’ Couturier said. “You can’t have enough experience down the road. Thompson’s been around for quite a bit. He’s a good faceoff guy, pretty disciplined the way he plays. I think they are two guys that will definitely help us down the road.’’
>Farabee, Bunnaman assigned to Phantoms
With the trades for Thompson and Grant, rookies Joel Farabee and Connor Bunnaman were assigned to the Phantoms. The Bunnaman move was to be expected but the Farabee demotion was a bit of a surprise because he’s enjoying a good second half.
“Joel will stay down for now,’’ Fletcher said. “I just want to make sure we give Joel every opportunity to be the player he can become. He’s played fine, I have no doubt he will be part of our group again, even in the near future.’’
>Gostisbehere in good spirits
After returning from a two-game rehab assignment, Shayne Gostisbehere (left knee surgery) was in good spirits after Monday’s practice.
“My knee felt good,’’ he said. “It was a total body sore after the weekend but it was cool, it was good.’’
There was speculation a healthy “Ghost’’ might have been trade bait. Fletcher shook his head.
“I can’t say I’m always on social media but I’m amazed at how often I’m trading him,’’ the GM said. “I like Shayne. Right now we’re carrying seven ‘D’ and he’s a guy I think can still contribute, he can play on the power play. We were certainly not looking to move him. . .teams called about him but nothing makes sense now to move one of our seven ‘D’ unless you’re getting a great impact player back.’’