First, he raised some eyebrows by protecting Scott Laughton and exposing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare to the expansion draft. Now, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is sending an even clearer message that he sees something in Laughton’s game that was missing during the full season he played as a Flyer in 2015-16 — and that if you’re one of the young centers vying for a spot in this season’s team, your task has just become tougher.
Just as the Flyers development camp was coming to a close, Laughton was signed to a two-year, $1.9 million extension Tuesday. He will receive $875,000 next season. The deal will have an annual cap hit of $962,000.
Now 23, the Flyers’ first-round selection in 2012 spent most of last season with Lehigh Valley, where he scored 19 goals and amassed 39 points in 60 games. That followed a full and disappointing season with the Flyers in which Laughton scored seven goals and added 14 assists over 71 games. He did not score in his two games with the Flyers last season.
“Scotty had a terrific year,” Hextall said before development camp began earlier this month. “He improved a lot, I think his focus and professionalism, quite honestly. I think Scotty really grew up last year.”
Earlier this month, Hextall signed Mike Vecchione, the Hobey Baker finalist who played in two games late this season, to a two-year, $1.8 million deal, setting up what appears to be a battle for the fourth-line center position in training camp this September. Vecchione, 24, has played well this week in development camp and was a faceoff master at Union.
“That’s going to have to play out,” Hextall said shortly after signing Vecchione. “… I can’t predict what’s going to happen here.”