Why Flyers see much more than a fighter in Nicolas Deslauriers

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Why Flyers see much more than a fighter in Deslauriers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

As a goal scorer, James van Riemsdyk always appreciated the beauty of the Wayne Simmonds effect.

Space and confidence.

When one of the most feared and revered players in the league is out there on the ice, the other team notices. The opposition becomes a little quieter, a little less pugnacious.

Almost like when the big brother in high school gets on the bus with a middle school bully.

For van Riemsdyk, he saw the ice open up when he returned to the Flyers and played alongside Simmonds in 2018-19.

"It was funny, I hadn’t played on the same line of someone that tough since I played with Arron Asham my first year (2009-10)," van Riemsdyk said in October 2019. "It’s really interesting how much more space you have when someone like him is out there. He’s a big presence on the ice and people are aware of that.

"That’s something I always got a chuckle out of being out there with him. He definitely gave you that extra little bit of room and gave you that extra little bit of feeling more confident in yourself out there, just because you knew he was out there, too. That was always fun to play with him."

Nicolas Deslauriers is not Wayne Simmonds. He doesn't have a pair of seasons with 30 or more goals like Simmonds. His career high in goals is 10. He hasn't played in over 1,000 games like Simmonds. The 31-year-old has appeared in 506.

But can he have a similar impact that Simmonds did on his playmaking and goal-scoring teammates? You know, help create the space and fuel the confidence that offensive players covet in this game?

The Flyers are hopeful.

"He's an opposing physical presence, one of the tougher players in the league," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said last Wednesday after signing Deslauriers to a four-year, $7 million contract in free agency. "With the number of young players that we expect to be on our roster next year, and in a division where there's a lot of big, physical players, we thought Nic Deslauriers would help our group and bring an element that we feel we need to allow the rest of our group to play to their capabilities."

More: No swing for Gaudreau? Flyers' aggressive retool quiet in free agency

Deslauriers' new deal has a $1.75 million cap hit. Per PuckPedia.com, the contract includes a modified no-trade clause for the first two years.

Are the years and trade protection too much for a fourth-line, checking type of forward? That will absolutely be up for debate.

Fletcher said there was "a pretty aggressive market" for Deslauriers. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound winger got his first taste of the playoffs last season with the Wild and said he had "a lot of teams calling" this offseason.

"I put myself in this situation to hit the market for the first time," Deslauriers said last Thursday. "It was kind of fun, but nerve-racking, getting teams that call you, 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.

"I had so many calls that were interesting, but at the end of the day, I'm so happy to be a Flyer."

Deslauriers had a good conversation with Fletcher and new head coach John Tortorella before signing.

"Just the fitting, I think every time I played there, it was kind of that rough and tough game," he said. "The way that the structure of not just the team, but how the city is, as well, it's a blue collar city. It wasn't an easy decision, but at the same time, it made it easier after talking to Chuck and Torts. I'm excited, that's for sure.

"The city seems to suit me well. Every time I played there, it's a hard-nosed game and the fans are involved, so I'm excited for that."

The Flyers will rely on Deslauriers for his physicality, to grind teams down and make them pay a price when they have the puck around the net or along the boards. While they'll rely on him to kill penalties and make his presence felt physically, Deslauriers mentioned that he has expanded his game.

"I've been working hard every summer just for that," he said. "The league is getting faster, I've been doing a lot of power skating. I know my age and everything. This league is getting younger and faster. So I know what I have to bring.

"I don't need Chuck to tell me what I need to do, I know what I have to do, I know what I have to bring and I know why he brought me on."

And, yes, Deslauriers will drop the gloves with just about anyone. He fought 13 times last season, once against Nick Seeler and the Flyers.

But if he can allow his new teammates to flex their offensive muscles, the Flyers believe they'll see plenty of value in this investment.

"The toughness part, it came natural for me," Deslauriers said. "I think I proved it a lot in the last five or six years that I'm able to answer the bell. But the main thing was pick my time. ... It's not always good to just fight every time. There's a purpose.

"Especially from last year, getting traded, they loved that I don't just do it just to do it. There's a purpose in why I'm doing it. But my main goal was to prove that I can play hockey. I think that's why maybe the market was heavily after me this year."

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