The Philadelphia Flyers have signed Morgan Frost to a two-year contract worth $4.2 million ($2.1 million in AAV). Elliotte Friedman first reported the deal.
On the surface, Frost joins a group of young players who broke out with strong seasons in 2022-23. Cam York, Noah Cates, and Owen Tippett will also play the 2023-24 season on short-term contracts with comparable salaries. They will all have the opportunity to flourish for a rebuilding team without too many established star players blocking positions at the top of the lineup.
Should the Flyers really trust Frost as a key building block for the future though? There’s much more to it.
New Contract for Morgan Frost
The former 27th-overall pick struggled to gain footing as a full-time player after his NHL debut early in the 2019-20 season. Slow development and injury problems led many people to doubt whether Frost could ever show the offensive form that made him a star prospect in the Ontario Hockey League, one of the best junior leagues in the world.
His overall offensive production in 2022-23 was suitable. Scoring 46 points (19 goals and 27 assists) in 81 games is nothing to write off, but it was his production late in the season that truly turned some heads in Philadelphia.
For some context on the type of strides Morgan Frost made when calendar turned to 2023:— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) July 17, 2023
Frost from Jan. 1 to end of season:
45 games, 32 points (12 G, 20 A), 28 at even strength
Alex DeBrincat from Jan. 1 to end of season:
46 games, 30 points (14 G, 16 A), 19 at even strength
Is it fair to count on Frost as the player the Flyers saw in the second half of the season?
Looking Closely at the Stats
The organization cannot ignore his tendency to compile stats against bad teams. Goals count against weaker opponents, and players are more likely to score against teams with poor defense and goaltending.
However, Charlie O’Connor split Frost’s scoring numbers in a way that exposed a disproportionate amount of scoring against teams who finished 21-32 in the final NHL standings. The scrutiny included an evaluation of Frost’s lack of impact on the power play.
As a puck carrier, his offensive zone entries also became predictable, which could lead to issues once opponents become more familiar with his game as he spends more time in the league.
Frost’s key play-driving metrics of Corsi share (CF%) and expected goal share (xGF%) fell short of the 50% median last season. He did finish with better defensive metrics than teammates Tippett, Joel Farabee, and Scott Laughton. He also had the advantage of a higher percentage of offensive zone shift starts, an indication that head coach John Tortorella didn’t rely on his defensive game as heavily.
Flyers Indicate Skepticism
Danny Briere locked up restricted free agents York and Cates to two-year deals in July. Although Frost got similar money, closer scrutiny indicates a different level of confidence.
“We were open to different scenarios. We approached the longer term,” Briere said on The John Kincade Show about negotiations with Cates and York. The rookie GM acknowledged an interest in both players as major building blocks of the rebuild.
Cates and York will likely sign long-term deals after their recent two-year bridge deals expire in 2025. Tippett has the opportunity to earn a lucrative long-term deal if he performs well in 2023-24 heading into free agency.
The organization has consistently lauded the growth of the three respective players in 2022-23. Tortorella spoke with a different attitude about Frost on March 24.
“I want to be fair with him. I don’t want to overthink it either… He drove me crazy early in the year (with) some of his habits, and he’s corrected those. I just want more time. A lot of players that I’m really interested in being here are inconsistent also. That’s what I’ve got to watch myself at.” -John Tortorella
The statement provided an easy chance to read between the lines into Tortorella’s skepticism. Frost responded with an excellent stretch to finish the season. His confidence grew overtly every time he found the scoresheet.
However, Bill Meltzer spoke in August about the holdup in Frost’s contract negotiations this summer. He pointed to the likelihood of a disconnect. The organization could’ve pointed to Frost’s performance on the season as a whole while the player likely wanted the acknowledgment of his individual late-season success.
Close scrutiny of the organization’s actions provides indicators that key decision-makers like Briere and Tortorella don’t look at Frost in the same vein as other impactful young players on the roster.
If that’s the case, why did they bring Morgan Frost back on a two-year contract? The Flyers have the opportunity to give players the freedom to prove themselves in a time period of low expectations. Frost earned that opportunity with a 46-point season, and his offensive skill is worth further evaluation. The scrutiny doesn’t discount his entire offensive performance.
If he scores at the same rate he did late in the 2022-23 season, he’ll lock up a long-term future with the Flyers. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking he’s on the same track as more important young players as a key centerpiece of the rebuild.