Nearly a week out from the beginning of free agency, reality is setting in.
In the end, Elliotte Friedman said on his ’32 Thoughts’ podcast that the Philadelphia Flyers never took a serious run at Johnny Gaudreau. But Chuck Fletcher has more work ahead before his roster is set and salary-cap compliant for the 2022-23 season.
Morgan Frost Signs One-Year Deal
Last Friday, Fletcher brought one more restricted free agent under contract. Center Morgan Frost, now 23, signed a one-year, one-way contract. The cap hit is $800,000.
For Frost, that’s a slight decline in base salary. He’s coming off his entry-level contract. That was signed in August of 2017, barely a month after he was selected 27th overall by the Flyers in Ron Hextall‘s second-last draft at the helm.
A high-scoring forward in junior hockey, Frost has yet to fully hit his stride at the NHL level. After shoulder surgery limited him to just two games in the 2020-21 season, Frost bounced back and forth between the Flyers and the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season. He posted a solid 19 points in 24 AHL games with the Phantoms. In Philadelphia, he managed 16 points in 55 NHL games, where he averaged 13:55 of ice time per game.
In Philadelphia, the injuries to key pivots Sean Couturier and Kevin Hayes gave Frost a chance to spend time in the middle, rather than being shifted to the wing. He also saw some power-play time, although just two of his points came with the man advantage.
Frost is no longer waiver exempt, so next season will be pivotal. Can he realize his first-round potential and carve out a key role in John Tortorella’s lineup?
Fletcher’s Take On Frost
“What I liked about Morgan this year is he really took to heart the constructive criticism that was given to him and he worked hard at his game,” said Fletcher during his year-end media availability in May.
“He’s a smart player. He’s always been good, but he was digging in areas where we felt he needed to dig in a little bit more. He did show big improvement in all those areas, and then after that, ironically, the next step was how does he get his offensive confidence back?
“I thought he finished very strongly. He needs another big summer. Needs to continue to get stronger, get a little bit quicker, like every young player. Pace of play needs to continue to get a little bit better, but he made big strides.
“Every year you go into camp and you hope you get one or two surprises, where a young player maybe comes in and is maybe a little bit better than what you hoped.
“This year, we’d love it to happen and he’s certainly a guy that could be one of those guys.”
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MacEwen Files For Arbitration
Flyers winger Zack MacEwen was one of 24 players to file for salary arbitration before last Sunday’s deadline.
Now 26, MacEwen was in the second year of a contract he signed with the Vancouver Canucks when he was plucked off the waiver wire by Philadelphia at the beginning of last season. The cap hit on that deal was $825,000, according to CapFriendly. He had a salary of $950,000 last season.
MacEwen became a fixture on the Flyers’ fourth line. Though he averaged just 9:40 per game in ice time, he finished eighth in the NHL with 110 penalty minutes. His 12 majors also tied him for fourth overall in the league.
Nice fight Zack MacEwen pic.twitter.com/1fks6DzS0v
— Nasty Knuckles (@NastyKnuckles) January 14, 2022
Ep 114: Aaron Rodgers, OBJ, and The New York Jets
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One player who finished last season with more major penalties than MacEwen was the Flyers’ new free-agent signing, Nicolas Deslauriers. He ended the year with 13 five-minute punishments. With a new four-year contract in hand, Deslauriers could make MacEwen redundant. But he’s listed as a left wing; MacEwen plays the right side.
Could the two team up under Tortorella to create, literally, a one-two punch that makes opposing players think twice about going into the corners or laying big hits?
Many players will settle on new deals with their teams before their arbitration heading is held. Hearings will be scheduled between July 27 and August 11.
More Signings Required
Four other Flyers were restricted free agents with arbitration rights this summer. They elected not to file.
Up front, free-agent acquisition Hayden Hodgson, 26 and drafted forwards Wade Allison, 24, and Tanner Laczynski, 25, are all in need of new deals for next season. But they have not established themselves as full-time NHL players. Injuries limited both Allison and Laczynski to just one NHL game last season. Both players remain waiver exempt heading into the 2022-23 campaign. Hodgson had previously been on an AHL contract.
On defense, 23-year-old Linus Hogberg got into five NHL games last season. He came to North America from his native Sweden two years ago. So far, he has spent most of his time in Lehigh Valley.
Three other young forwards are unsigned restricted free agents who didn’t have arbitration rights.
Owen Tippett, 23, is a former first-round draft pick who finished out his year with 21 points in 63 NHL games. Those were spread between Philadelphia and Florida. Tippett also chipped in 18 points in 12 AHL games with the Charlotte Checkers before he was acquired by the Flyers at the 2022 trade deadline.
Isaac Ratcliffe, also 23, was a second-round pick by the Flyers. The 6’6″ winger played his first 10 NHL games this season, picking up four points.
Finally, 24-year-old forward Jackson Cates is officially a 10.2(c) free agent. He originally signed with the Flyers late in the 2020-21 season, after wrapping up his junior year of college. Cates spent most of last season in Lehigh Valley, and got into 11 games in Philadelphia. His brother Noah is also now part of the organization and is under contract for next season.
Both Cates brothers remain waiver exempt next season. Tippett and Ratcliffe would require waivers to be assigned to the AHL.
5 Depth Signings
In addition to signing Deslauriers and bringing back Justin Braun, the Flyers also signed five depth players who were unrestricted free agents to new deals last Wednesday:
- Goaltender Troy Grosenick, 32, adds veteran depth in net. It looks increasingly unlikely that Ivan Fedotov will be able to leave Russia to debut with the Flyers this fall. Prospects Felix Sandstrom and Samuel Ersson are under contract and expected to do battle for the NHL backup position behind Carter Hart.
- Defenseman Kevin Connauton, 32, returns on a two-year, two-way contract. Connauton played 26 games for the Flyers last season.
- Defenseman Louie Belpedio, 26, joins the club on a one-year, two-way contract. Like Nick Seeler before him, Belpedio was originally drafted by the Minnesota Wild when Fletcher and Brent Flahr were at the helm, back in 2014. Belpedio has played just four career NHL games to date. He spent last season with the AHL’s Laval Rocket.
- Centers Adam Brooks, 26, and Cooper Marody, 25, were each inked to two-year, two-way contracts. Brooks is a left-shot center who was drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs, then claimed on waivers four different times last season. He played a total of 25 NHL games last year with the Montreal Canadiens, Vegas Golden Knights and Winnipeg Jets. Marody is a right-shot who was originally drafted by the Flyers in the sixth round in 2015. He had his rights traded to Edmonton as he was finishing up his junior year at Michigan in 2018. Largely a farmhand with the Bakersfield Condors, Marody has appeared in seven NHL games to date.
The post The Philadelphia Flyers Have More Work To Do In The 2022 Offseason appeared first on Full Press Hockey.
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