VOORHEES – Nate Thompson’s first reaction to his trade to the Flyers on Monday morning was one of excitement.
And why not? He’s going from a Montreal team which basically is out of the playoff picture to one which is challenging for first place in the Metropolitan Division.
The Flyers acquired Thompson, along with Anaheim forward Derek Grant, to improve their depth down the middle.
For Thompson, the Flyers sent a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to the Canadiens.
For Grant, the Flyers packaged forward Kyle Criscuolo and a conditional fourth-round draft pick to the Ducks.
Thompson, 35, has played for seven NHL teams and is known primarily as a defensive player, having scored only 62 goals in 760 NHL games.
The Alaska native was a former sixth-round draft pick of the Boston Bruins. In 63 games this season, he has four goals and a total of 14 points.
Grant, 30, has played for six NHL teams. In 49 games this season, Grant has scored 14 goals and registered 20 points with a minus-1.
Thompson sounded pleased to join a contender.
“It’s exciting to have this chance to play on a real good team that’s had a real good year all year,’’ Thompson said in a conference call to media assembled at the Skate Zone. “I’m going to relish the opportunity.
“I’m just going to come in and do my thing, do my job – just try and complement the team, help the team win.’’
With the status of Nolan Patrick (sidelined by chronic migraine headache symptoms) cloudy, the Flyers figured they needed more experience down the middle.
Currently, rookie Connor Bunnaman is holding down the fourth-line center spot. Also, third-line center Scott Laughton could move to wing if coach Alain Vigneault decides to employ both Thompson and Grant in the starting lineup.
General manager Chuck Fletcher appeared to be looking to bring in some veterans for the stretch drive and possible competition in the playoffs.
“I talked to him (Fletcher) and I think it goes without saying that I’ve been around long enough, your role never really changes,’’ Thompson said. “He told me to come in and just be myself. Play the way that I have played, continue to do that and everything will fall into place.
“I’m just going to play my role, help this team win and have fun doing it. It sounds like a great group of guys here.’’
Thompson has played for Boston, the Islanders, Tampa Bay, Anaheim, Ottawa, Los Angeles and Montreal.
One thing Thompson does well is kill penalties. The Flyers’ penalty kill currently has moved up to 12th in the NHL at 81.7 percent.
“He (Fletcher) did mention penalty kill,’’ Thompson said. “But I guess that will be up to the coaches, where they slot me in.’’
The experience Thompson brings could be invaluable to some of the Flyers’ young players.
“I think I can come in and lead by example,’’ Thompson said. “They have a great core leadership group there. I think the biggest thing is just being a good pro, being a good teammate.’’
Thompson likes what Grant brings to the table.
“He’s a good player,’’ Thompson said. “He’s hard to play against. I think every time I’ve played against him when he was with Anaheim and Pittsburgh, he was one of those guys you know you’re in for a tough night.
“I think he’s very versatile. I’m excited to be playing on the same side as him.’’
Thompson believes he’s joining a team on the rise.
“I think for as long as I have played against them, they have evolved,’’ Thompson said. “I think they have always been a team that has had that confidence in the teams that they are hard to play against.
“Over the last few years, they have added speed and skill, but even their skilled guys are hard to play against and play with that snarl and I think that is something that you always think about when you play against the Flyers. It is never an easy game and you know you are in for a tough night. I am excited to be a part of it. A close buddy of mine from back home, Matt Carle, played for the Flyers and told me some great things. So, I am excited to be a Flyer now.’’
In the Grant trade, Fletcher announced that the pick will be the better of the two fourth-round picks the Flyers have – their own and Nashville’s, which was previously acquired on Feb. 25, 2019.
Grant has appeared in 257 NHL games with Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Nashville, Calgary and Ottawa, with career totals of 30 goals and 35 assists for 65 points.
A native of Abbotsford, British Columbia, Grant was selected by Ottawa in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Criscuolo, 27, has appeared in 40 games for the Flyers’ American Hockey League affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, this season, where he has eight goals and 16 assists for 24 points.