With the need for some depth at center, the Flyers on Wednesday signed veteran Nate Thompson to a one-year, $800,000 deal.
Thompson is back with the Flyers for a second stint. He was acquired by the club in February 2020 at the trade deadline and played 16 games in the playoffs, where the Flyers' season ended with a second-round Game 7 loss to the Islanders. Thompson was on an expiring contract and signed with the Jets in the offseason.
"Just some of the things we've felt we needed to address," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Wednesday. "He brings size and grit to our team, he's a good penalty killer, he's good on faceoffs, he can play left wing or center and just provides us with more experience, more leadership and more depth up front. It seems like every year if you don't add this type of player now, then you have to add it at the deadline. We just thought we'd get ahead of it and bring him in. We had a good experience with him before and were excited to bring him back and Nate was excited to come back."
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Thompson, who turns 37 years old in October, was well-liked in the Flyers' locker room for his experience. The coaching staff trusted his ability to win faceoffs and chip in on the penalty kill in lesser minutes. Thompson owns 86 career playoff appearances and has played in an Eastern Conference Final and a Western Conference Final.
"A veteran guy that’s been through some wars and battles," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said about Thompson in July 2020. "You need depth, you need players who have got that character and have been through it."
After the 2020 playoffs, Thompson said he was "very interested" in returning to the Flyers and had spoken highly about the makeup of the locker room ever since he was acquired.
"I love the group of guys, coaching staff, I thought it was a good fit for me," Thompson said in September 2020. "I think this team definitely has a window of winning."
The Flyers have changed a good bit since he left, particularly during this busy July, but a solid majority of the core is still in place.
After the trade of Nolan Patrick earlier this month, the Flyers lost depth down the middle. There will be opportunities for Morgan Frost or Tanner Laczynski to seize a full-time job. However, Frost has 22 games of NHL experience and is coming off a shoulder injury that required season-ending surgery in February. Laczynski made his NHL debut last season and played five games before undergoing right hip surgery to repair a torn labrum.
Thompson will vie for a fourth-line center role and should be good insurance when not in the lineup. The Flyers have created competition at forward and on defense.
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