How the Flyers can be Both Sellers and make Themselves Better at the Same Time
(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)
With the NHL All-Star festivities finishing up, it has allowed potential playoff-bound teams time to assess their current roster and make a decision on what/who they feel they need to acquire in order to ensure that their club is the one that finds themselves raising the 131-year-old relic known as Stanley Cup this spring.
This is something that I feel the Flyers, regardless of their current third-place standing in the Metropolitan Division, should shy away from, and here’s why. Regardless of the fact that their head coach, John Tortorella, has managed to have his team playing above expectations this season. I fear the recent impact of star prospect Cutter Gauthier having to be traded away because he no longer wished to sign with the team and the Flyers decision to recently make Carter Hart a non-roster player upon him facing sexual assault allegations in Canada may have taken some wind out of the team’s sails. And I don’t think it is going to get better any time soon. To find validity to that statement, you need to look no further than the five-game skid Philadelphia is currently on.
In saying that, it does not mean that I think the team should NOT be active come the trade deadline. On the contrary, I believe that the Flyers should try to garner as much help for the future as they can using a little method called addition-through-subtraction. There’s no doubt that if the Flyers do intend to be sellers by the March 8th trade deadline, they will look to get rid of one or both of their unrestricted free agent defensemen in Sean Walker and Nick Seeler that will gain them some draft pick compensation.
To go along with this, though, the Flyers have noticed that during their week off, both centers Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan were traded by their respective teams for first-round picks. So, the Flyers made it known that they were willing to listen to offers for their 29-year-old center Scott Laughton, which I have no problem with if they move on from him because they essentially have multiple “younger” defensive centers just like him signed to cheaper contracts in the form of Ryan Poehling and Noah Cates. In fact, getting out from under Scott’s inflated $3 million cap hit that they currently are due to shell out for the rest of this season and the next two seasons after this one might help them to acquire a short-term replacement for Hart this off-season that could provide aid until goaltending prospects within the Flyers system are ready. But although I like Laughton as a player, his drop in point production this season may not get Philadelphia the kind of return they are seeking. For instance, Monahan’s goal total is nearly triple Scott’s five lamp lighters this year.
Along with that, both Lindholm and Monahan have 12-15 more total points scored so far this season. So, the Flyers shouldn’t necessarily expect the same kind of return for Scott. They will more than likely be forced to settle for a second or third-round pick for his services. And while the team can definitely use that. The timetable for a player drafted with that acquired pick won’t likely be able to crack the Flyers’ lineup for a couple of seasons, if ever.
So, if they really want to bolster their lineup now and moving forward, I suggest they offer up someone to prospecting teams who would bring them back a much bigger return. And that player is Morgan Frost.
Frost, who once again finds his name in the trade rumor mill, was initially drafted by Ron Hextall back in the first round of 2017. He came to this franchise with great offensive potential, scoring multiple 100-point seasons in the Ontario Hockey League. Since then, though, he has had minimal success in the parts of the five seasons he’s played with the Flyers thus far. And yes, I am taking into effect that this now 24-year-old center set career highs last year with 19 goals and 46 points. If you’re a fan of his, just know that there is a reason why he has still managed to find himself being a healthy scratch on eleven different occasions this season. And the reason for that is he just plain doesn’t seem to fit in here! Frost does not play Flyers hockey. He tends to avoid contact and shows the inability to create and capitalize on his OWN scoring chances, which is probably why the Flyers seemed a little reluctant to re-sign him this season. When others his age with similar draft stock around the league were receiving big paydays this off-season, Morgan found himself forced to wait an extended period of time before finally being able to settle on a two-year, 4.2 million dollar deal. And it appears as though the team was wise not to re-sign him for any more than the 2.1 million dollar cap hit that they gave him, seeing that Frost is on pace to finish with only 13 goals this season.
But trading a 24-year-old center away for potentially a late 1st or 2nd round pick isn’t going to help this team succeed anytime soon. What they need to do is try and take advantage of a playoff-bound team who is in a win-now mode and would be willing to give up an NHL prospect with great potential in order for that win-now team to gain the one player who may push them over the hump and help them raise a banner this season.
In saying that, the Flyers target should be the aging Dallas Stars. The Stars, who have been in the playoffs for multiple seasons in a row, now failed just short of being able to compete for the Stanley Cup last season when they lost to the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the Conference Finals. But time may be running out for this AARP-bound team, who currently finds themselves in second place in the Central Division right now. Dallas’ management has to know that this will likely be their last real push with this current group of aging veterans. Because defenseman Ryan Suter and forward Joe Pavelski are both 39 years old. Their captain, Jamie Benn, along with Evgenii Dadonov and Craig Smith, are 34. Not to mention that Matt Duchene is 33, and Tyler Seguin is 32. They fell short of reaching their goal last year clearly not because they lacked experience, but because after playing an 82-game season and taking an additional 13 games to get by both the Minnesota Wild and the Seattle Kraken before reaching the Conference Finals, they were tired and did not have enough established youth in their lineup to keep up with the Golden Knights.
That’s where Frost would come in. By not taking the Chuck Fletcher approach of just sitting around and waiting for teams to come to them with offers for their players. The flyers could be proactive and call the Stars up and sell the idea to them that Morgan would be a much better upgrade over either Sam Steel or the aging Craig Smith for their third-line center position so Frost could help revitalize Seguin. Or the Stars could take a little strain off of the aging Pavelski and move him over to wing as they have done before to allow for a possible second line of Frost, Benn, and Pavelski. That kind of move very well could boost this nearly there team over the top to the point of them being Stanley Cup contenders.
But who or what should the Flyers GM Danny Briere ask back for if such a move were to be made? Well, I would imagine they would have to be willing to take back some salary to make it work, which might be someone like Craig Smith, who has a one-million-dollar expiring contract. But the proven prospect I would want would be Logan Stankoven. This 20-year-old center, who was drafted back in the second round of the 2021 draft, reminds me a lot of Briere himself. Logan, who is just 5’8, played for the Kamloops Blazers and was the 21-22 WHL Player of the Year, as well as the CHL Player of the Year. In a season where he scored 45 goals and 59 assists for 104 points, all mind you, while averaging a +45. In addition to that, Stankoven is a 3-time World Junior Gold Medal Champion for Team Canada.
And with him not having to prove anything else in Junior hockey, Logan then turned pro this season, where in 40 games played thus far for the team’s AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars, Stankoven has been able to score 20 goals and 31 assists for a total of 51 points. That 1.27 points-per-game average is good enough to see him leading the American League in points right now.
What has allowed Stankoven to reach such success despite his diminutive size is his drive to win. Although he may lack the speed of other elite prospects, Logan’s feet are never still. He is shifty and is not scared to get physical when needed. He does not stay to the outside of the ice either, like other players his size; he forces his way into the middle to create a better scoring chance for himself on a breakaway, and when he does not have the puck, you can find him setting up shop in and around the net to put back a juicy rebound.
If you’re beginning to ask yourself why in the world would the Stars be willing to trade away a player like this, remember they are in a win-now mode! Plus, the Stars, unlike the Flyers, have a lot of up-and-coming prospects. So, although it might seem hard for us to fathom trading away a player like Stankoven, I assure you the Stars could get over it pretty quickly, given the fact that they also have a 22-year-old center in Mavrik Bourque playing in the AHL who currently sits in second place overall in points behind Logan with 48 of his own.
So, you see if the Flyers can continue to get rid of prior GM’s players who don’t fit in on South Broad Street to teams in need of someone now. They could expedite their rebuild by replacing them with exciting NHL-ready prospects. And I don’t know about you, but even if the Stars wanted something extra back in return for Stankoven (I.E., a second or third-round pick), I would gladly give it up in order to add a proven prospect who could be called up to the NHL tomorrow and instantly bring some offense down the center. Not to mention the fact that he would most likely help aid promising Flyers players like Owen Tippett, Tyson Foerster, and Bobby Brink reach their full potential as well.
I’m a lifelong Flyers fan who has been playing the sport of Ice Hockey we all know and love competitively for over 30 years now. I grew up playing in-between the pipes where I was able to take in the whole game and analysis just what the team needed to do to help us win. Over the years I always enjoyed reading and gaining as much knowledge as possible about this great sport, but always thought it lacked something. A players prospective!