Like Kenny Rogers once sang, “you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.’’
In the case of new Flyer Nic Deslauriers, it’s more like know when to hold his gloves and know when to drop them.
Deslauriers, signed to a four-year free-agent contract averaging $1.75 million on Wednesday, believes he was brought to the Flyers with the intent of making them a tougher team to play against.
But like with most enforcer types, Deslauriers (6-foot-1, 220 pounds) has been working on his overall game to, in a sense, justify rather big bucks for someone who’s scored all of 44 goals in 506 NHL games.
The more noteworthy statistic: 521 penalty minutes in those aforementioned matches with Buffalo, Montreal, Anaheim and Minnesota.
General manager Chuck Fletcher came under more than a bit of scrutiny by the media and fans on Wednesday when he chose not to go after big-name free agents like Johnny Gaudreau. Instead he chose to shore up his defense (Justin Braun) and team toughness (Deslauriers).
The 31-year-old Deslauriers can certainly help with new head coach John Tortorella’s plan to make the Flyers a tougher team to play against.
“I know what I have to do and what I have to bring,’’ Deslauriers said during a media Zoom call on Thursday. “In the last five or six years I’ve been able to answer the bell. But the main thing is knowing when to do it. It’s not always good to fight every time. . .there’s a purpose. In the game sometime it can change momentum.’’
The Wild secured Deslauriers from the Ducks to be a more physical team and the plan seemed to work. Deslauriers got into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in his career.
“They (the Wild) loved that I didn’t just do it (fight) just to do it,’’ he explained. “There’s a purpose in why I’m doing it. My main goal was to prove I can play hockey. Maybe that’s why the market was after me this year.’’
If an energy guy can contribute at both ends of the rink, so much the better.
“This (past) year was about proving that I can play, I’ve been working hard every summer just because the league is getting faster,’’ he said. “I’ve been doing a lot of power skating. I know my age and everything. This league is getting younger and faster. The toughness part came natural for me.’’
It’s all about discretion. Sometimes just the fear of facing a player such as Deslauriers can create an intimidation factor.
“I’ve been in the league long enough to know my role and how it is,’’ Deslauriers said. “There are less and less of us in the league for sure.
“My main goal the last few years was to prove that I can do the dirty work but at the same time I wanted to evolve my game a little. I know I’m not going to score a lot of goals but I can be a good penalty kill guy.’’
Deslauriers reportedly had other offers but Philadelphia seemed like the best fit. The Flyers are in rebuilding mode and although Deslauriers is 31 years old, he figures the change of scenery will energize his game.
Plus, he believes Philadelphia will appreciate his aggressive style.
“Everytime I played there it was kind of that rough and tough game,’’ Deslauriers said. “Not just the structure of the team but how the city is. It’s blue collar. It wasn’t an easy decision but it made it easier after talking to Chuck and ‘Torts.’ I’m excited, that’s for sure.’’
The La Salle, Quebec, Canada native said he spent about two weeks making up his mind where he wanted to play. Teams aren’t supposed to have negotiations with players prior to the start of free agency but everyone knows that’s kind of a wink-wink rule.
“It was fun but kind of nerve-racking,’’ he said. “You get an offer on the table and then you get another team that tells you to wait a bit, that they want to do something. Last year wasn’t the way the (Flyers) organization wanted it. They wanted to take a step forward and I’m happy to bring kind of what I do best.’’
Even though the Flyers added veterans Tony DeAngelo and Justin Braun to their defense corps over the past week, youngsters such as Cam York and Ronnie Attard remain optimistic they can challenge for a roster spot in training camp.
Attard, a third-round draft pick (72nd overall) in 2019, got into 15 NHL games last season and that should help him stay in the mix this season.
The 23-year-old Western Michigan University grad is listed at 6-foot-3, 208 pounds but has been using this summer to get bigger, stronger and faster.
“I’m right on track, I continue to gain strength,’’ Attard said after a development camp workout at the Flyers Training Center on Thursday. “Now just have to work on the speed aspect of it.’’
He posted two goals/four points with a respectable minus-2 over those 15 games.
Flyers development coach Mike O’Connell compares Attard’s game to that of Tampa Bay’s Erik Cernak, who was prominent in the Lightning’s valiant attempt at a third Stanley Cup.
“I watched players like that,’’ Attard said. “They provide stability for their team. I know that’s a role that I need to take under my wing, provide stability and continue to earn ice time.’’