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It Could Be a Mistake, but When Do the Flyers Cut the Cord on Frost?

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I am not saying or confirming that the Philadelphia Flyers are trading Morgan Frost, nor do I think they should move on from him at this very moment either, however 2017 was awhile ago and even though a variety of factors kept him down and out, you start to wonder if there’s an expiration date looming?

The Fourth Period mentioned that there were rumours during the off-season that the Flyers were in conversation with the Montreal Canadiens and the Ottawa Senators in regard to the 24-year-old centre. The Flyers were reportedly very interested in Shane Pinto from the Senators and were willing to eat the rest of Mathieu Joseph’s contract to help push through a move.

After Pinto’s 41-game suspension for gambling was announced on Thursday, that ship may have sailed now, but if Frost was being discussed in the offseason for Pinto or other players then that might explain his lengthy delay in signing a contract extension. Frost was the final RFA to get a deal done at the beginning of September and re-upped for 2-years after a very solid finish to his 2022-23 season. Adding to that, there have been recent discussions with teams expressing their interest in the forward who has sat in the press box for the last 4 games and will sit once again tonight against the Minnesota Wild.

The ball might be in Daniel Briere’s court, but should he make a move right now? Or should he do the seemingly right thing and wait things out because it’s not like the interest from other teams is going to disappear and his value can’t tank any further either.

In theory, Frost is the type of player that is required for a rebuilding team. He plays down the middle, he is a great playmaker, can score upwards of 20 goals, and should be a power play threat at some point in his career. Unfortunately, “ifs and buts” have been the root cause of the death of Flyers hockey in recent years. All the touted prospects and the highly ranked pipelines led to purgatory.

Frost progressed immensely throughout his 4-year tenure with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds as he went from 27 points in 65 games in 2015-16 to 62 points in 67 games the following season to 112 points in 67 games in his draft-year. Ron Hextall and his staff were very enamoured with the prospect and decided to re-enter the first round by shipping off Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues – for a package that eventually netted them Joel Farabee the following year.

Entrenched as one of the more touted prospects in the system, Frost scored 109 points in just 58 games the following season before making the jump to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2019-20. There was a slight chance that the youngster could crack the opening night roster out of training camp, but he was limited with a groin injury and started the year with the Phantoms instead.

He got the call-up after scoring 12 points in 16 games and the Flyers were struggling offensively. He started out the gate with fury with a goal in his NHL debut and then a goal and an assist in his next game. He would then add 4 assists in his next 16 games before being sent back down to the minors. He made the AHL All-Star Classic for the Phantoms and ended the COVID-interrupted season with 29 points in 41 games for the Phantoms and 7 points in 20 games for the Flyers.

After being chosen to remain with the NHL squad as they entered the playoff bubble, he didn’t see any game-action as the Flyers were ousted in 7 games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the New York Islanders. To start the 2020-21 season, Frost didn’t enter the lineup until the third game after Sean Couturier was sidelined with an injury – it was Frost’s time to shine. Unfortunately, he underwent season-ending shoulder surgery after taking a hit from Jake McCabe in his 2nd game, effectively cutting short another season.

After having only played in 4 games from December 29th, 2019 to October 15th, 2021, the Flyers felt it was the right call to have him start the 2021-22 season with the Phantoms just to get some game action before jumping back into the NHL lineup. He made quick work with 19 points in 24 games but struggled when he arrived in the NHL with just 5 goals and 16 points in 55 games. There was a 35-game stretch where he tallied one goal and 5 assists, was a -10, and averaged 14:07 TOI.

That was chalked up to not having played a lot of hockey in a 2-year span. It wasn’t a memorable season in the slightest, but he had made some progress near the end when the Flyers traded Claude Giroux and had Owen Tippett flanked on Frost’s wing.

John Tortorella became Frost’s 3rd coach in 4 years and looking for a fresh start, he came out of the gates with a 2-goal performance in the season opener and then tallied an assist against Tampa Bay in the third game. He slumped to the tune of 1 goal and 3 points in the next 24 games, which included a healthy scratch against the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the catalyst to his season was a 4-point performance against the Arizona Coyotes – the first of his two 4-point games against the club that season – as he ended up pacing the team the rest of the way in points with 40 in the final 54 games.

It was a night-and-day difference as Frost was aggressive, confident, and was making plays he had never thought of doing in previous years with the possibility of being scratched at the forefront. With the Flyers lacking firepower, Frost was a player the club depended on at the end of the season. It was seen as a formidable finish for the former first round pick from all the way back in 2017 and with reinforcements on their way and a more balanced roster on the horizon, the prevailing opinion was that Frost would be in line for an even bigger season.

2 games into the 2023-24 season and Frost became a healthy scratch and entered Tortorella’s doghouse – a place he has remained in over the course of the team’s last 5 games. If this was 2022-23, then there would have been a lot more leeway, however with more players vying for roster spots and Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson returning, there was far less wiggle room for a slow start.

It’s not that he played horribly, he just wasn’t much of a factor and with Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster playing their hearts out to stick with the big club instead of either sitting in the press box or being sent back down to the minors, Tortorella made the call and up until now it seems to have worked. The Flyers might have lost back-to-back games in disappointing fashion ahead of Thursday’s game against Minnesota, but you can’t discredit the hustle and resiliency shown by every member wearing the “Flying P” on a nightly basis.

And what was Tortorella’s mantra from the get-go? Work hard.

The points don’t have to be there necessarily, the wins will be few and far in between at times, but if the work ethic is there, if the hustle is present, and if the aggression is positive, the results will come. Noah Cates has committed, Owen Tippett has committed, Joel Farabee has committed, and Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster are committing, so where does that leave Frost?

He remains a focal point in this offense for the time being, but he’s definitely on watch and whenever he re-enters the lineup, there’s going to be some added pressure on the youngster. He has risen to the occasion before, he has shown flashes of consistency just as recently as last season, and with players like Owen Tippett, Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, Bobby Brink, Tyson Foerster, and Joel Farabee as his possible running mates, he has no excuse either. It’s not the greatest cast and crew but it’s the best he’s been a part of.

So, while rumours may be swirling, for the time being the Flyers have to play this delicately and allow Frost to reimagine himself, find his groove, and gain some of that confidence back over a lengthy stretch of games. If at that point, things are still running dry, then a serious conversation has to come about his future in Philadelphia and how long he may last with the Flyers trying to turn the page effectively, swiftly, and with gusto.

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