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.
Coach Alain Vigneault was all smiles when he greeted the media after a morning practice at the Skate Zone.
The additions of forwards Nate Thompson from Montreal and Derek Grant from Anaheim give him more pieces to move around the chessboard down the stretch and into possible playoff competition.
“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.’’
Hayes was traded from the Rangers to Winnipeg last year before he wound up signing with the Flyers in July.
“It’s never fun to leave your friends and memories,’’ Hayes said. “And the relationships you’ve built with the team. But once you get beyond that point, it’s exciting to go to a team that’s in a ‘win-now’ mentality.’’
James van Riemsdyk went from being drafted by the Flyers to being traded to Toronto and then coming back to the Flyers as a free agent. Like Hayes, he believes that players look forward to a change of address once they say good-bye to their friends and teammates on their former team.
“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.’’
The Flyers currently hold the No. 3 spot in the Metro Division but are only three points up on Columbus, which is basically in a tie with Carolina for the second (and final) wild card spot.
Can trade deadline pickups provide teams with a shot in the arm?
“I think it can be hit and miss,’’ van Riemsdyk said. “Finding a fit this time of the year can be tougher. But that’s why you leave the decisions to management.
“We didn’t lose any players to do this. Certainly I think they (management) have to be happy with what we’ve done so far.’’
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.
>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.’’
Could he play as early as Tuesday vs. San Jose?
“The boys are rolling,’’ Gostisbehere said. “I wouldn’t touch the lineup either. For me, I’m just going to keep getting my work in. Just wait for my opportunity.