— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) January 27, 2013
Scott Laughton looked good in five NHL games, but the Flyers are making the right decision in sending him back to the Oshawa Generals. Had he played tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning, a year of Laughton's entry-level contact would have been burned and he likely would have stayed here for the entire season.
We've talked about this more than once since training camp began and Laughton was invited, but it's not exactly an easy problem to figure out.
Laughton's only 18 years old. He has a lot of growth ahead of him, and you can't argue that there's no value in him getting NHL experience at such a young age. Being around the NHL game, seeing how NHL players go about their business and most importantly, playing against NHL competition will undoubtedly grow his own game.
But the question isn't just a matter of his game. You have the weigh the benefit that Laughton will see by staying in the NHL versus the financial realities of his contract situation. Is it worth burning a year of a valuable ELC when he's only playing third or fourth line minutes and not really seeing a big role?
The injury woes the Flyers have faced in the early going this season complicated this situation a lot. Scott Hartnell being out of the lineup and Danny Briere shifting over the wing opens up more of an opportunity for Laughton, but to me it's still not enough to warrant burning a year of his contract. Real growth as a young player comes from playing the game, not sitting on the bench most of the game and watching NHLers play.
Laughton could following the end of Oshawa's junior season, but I'm not sure if that would cost him a year on his ELC if he came back during the regular season. If the Generals go to the Memorial Cup, that could be May 26, but the regular season ends on March 17. They look like they'll be playoff bound, so the exact date he could return is a moving target. But Laughton's NHL year might not be done just yet. We'll have to wait and see.
By sending him back before game six, his contract slides one year and the Flyers are back at 49 contracts on their reserve list. The limit is 50.