During a week largely dominated by the news that New Jersey Devils superstar Ilya Kovalchuk will be retiring, the Philadelphia Flyers made the seemingly insignificant move of signing defenseman Oliver Lauridsen to a two-year, $1.2 million contract. While the signing made no immediate ripples throughout the NHL, it was an intelligent move by General Manager Paul Holmgren, who surely recognized the need for a deep blue line after the outcome of the 2013 season.
Plagued by injuries, the Flyers defense cycled through 12 players throughout the 48-game season. Lauridsen replaced the injured Braydon Coburn on March 29 and finished the season with just three points in 15 games.
Despite his lackluster stats, the 24 year-old Dane shows potential as a viable bottom-pair defenseman. At 6-foot-6, Lauridsen sports an impressive reach and an equally strong slapshot to match. He tallied 34 penalty minutes in his 15 games, a figure that emerged largely from one-on-one scenarios against opposing forwards.
If Lauridsen is to become a steady fixture on the Flyers blue line, he’ll have to control his aggressiveness and reduce his penalty minutes. It would be wise for Lauridsen to follow the path of fellow Flyer Zac Rinaldo, a former penalty-magnet who managed to reform his play.
Given his height, Lauridsen has a sweeping range but needs to work on his skating ability and defensive capabilities. Fortunately, he’ll be learning from some of the best in Kimmo Timmonen and newcomer Mark Streit. If the veteran defensemen can impart their knowledge and capabilities on Lauridsen, he’s sure to have a bright future with the Flyers organization. And at just $600,000 a year, he’s but a minor divot in the salary cap.