Flyers Twitter was abuzz on Tuesday night with trade rumors surrounding fan-favorite Wayne Simmonds. Michael Russo of The Athletic fanned the flames with this blurb about possible NHL trades:
“Multiple sources tell me the Flyers are gearing to potentially trade Wayne Simmonds. He’s a year from free agency and coming off a 24-goal, injury-hindered season. He scored 120 goals the four seasons before that, is big, is tough (the guy caved in Wild winger Eric Nystrom’s face once during a fight as a King), is a leader. He’s a right-shot wing and makes a reasonable $5 million with an even more reasonable $3.975 million cap hit. He has a 12-team no-trade clause, per capfriendly.com.”
While plenty of fans seemed to be caught off-guard by the notion that the Flyers could consider trading such an integral piece of the team, this news is nothing new to listeners of Snow the Goalie. Our Flyers beat writer Anthony SanFilippo and I have been talking about this potential move for weeks, and in our recent exclusive interview with Flyers GM Ron Hextall, we heard a few things that may have alluded to it.
Hextall on the PK, improving from within, and bringing up prospects:
“You got to be careful because you get a roster size at 23 spots in your roster and you got to count your players and you don’t want to box kids out that may be ready for the next step. So it’s a juggling act, you know, you might look at acquisitions. Can we move a player for player to get a little better penalty kill or maybe not as much five-on-five production? We’ll look at all that. I truly believe we can improve from within the last 20, 21, 22, 23 games our penalty kill was much better. So I feel like we can improve from within.”
On trades, contract length, and salary cap implications:
“Well, first of all, that evaluation (making a big splash in FA/trade) is nonstop. Okay. Can we add one player takes us to this level that’s a nonstop evaluation that happens on a certain and a weekly basis. Now in saying that, that doesn’t mean you’re going to have to go out and make the big splash. Sometimes you can just say, “Okay, we got this coming here, he’s going to fill this box, we’ve got this coming and he’s going to fill that box. So you gotta be really careful where you say, “Okay, we need to fill this box,” but yet in a year we got a player coming that’s going to fill that box. Now what are we going to do with the player that’s coming now? So it’s a real juggling act where you’re looking at term, any asset you acquire, term is important. Do you want a guy for five years? You want a guy for, for one year to bridge where we’re going here or you know, player actually assigned to a three year deal because you feel like in two years this kid’s come and then he can, you know, essentially take that box? And again you mentioned the salary cap. That’s a big part of it. So it’s a juggling act. It’s not easy. You try and evaluate as much as you can and be correct as many times as possible.”
The Flyers are entering an off-season with roughly $17 million in cap space they could use on a marquee free agent like the Islanders’ John Tavares or as part of a trade – with a subsequent extension – for Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson. Anthony and I have been outlining potential trade scenarios for the latter on Snow the Goalie, including a package of the 14th and/or 19th overall pick in Friday’s NHL Draft along with a veteran such as Simmonds or defenseman Radko Gudas.
As for this most recent development, Anthony had the following to say:
Context: Trading Wayne Simmonds is not going to be popular, but it’s the right thing to do. Simmonds’ primary worth is on the power play. However, with Nolan Patrick emerging as a strong net-front presence on the top PP unit in Simmonds’ absence last year, Simmonds would be relegated to second-PP duty. The Flyers don’t see enough ice for him to get enough ice time to make him relevant. His 5-on-5 play has dropped off some and although he can still kill penalties, that isn’t the role you need Wayne Simmonds to play.
Potential suitors: There are some teams who are on the cusp of contending for a Stanley Cup, or who are already in the conversation, who could view Simmonds as a PP upgrade. Simmonds has an unknown 12-team list he can’t be traded to, so I don’t know if any of these teams are on there, but I can definitely see Nashville, San Jose and, yes, even his former team in L.A. having interest. A surprise team could be St. Louis, who had a down year but could get back in contention with a couple moves like this.
Trade value: What does Simmonds net you? Likely another draft pick and maybe a useable depth player in return. Could he be packaged with one of the first rounders as part of a move up in the draft? That’s a real possibility as well.
Conclusion: Moving Simmonds gives Hextall a lot of flexibility – both with the cap and the roster. Some fans won’t like the idea, but it’s definitely a good one from this perspective.
Simmonds’ blue-collar mentality and willingness to stand up for his teammates has endeared him to the fans of the Orange and Black. Off the ice, Simmonds has contributed to the Philadelphia community with his “Wayne’s Warriors” program:
“For 20 games this season, men and women of the armed forces will be invited to be guests of Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds in his private balcony suite at the Wells Fargo Center. Each military organization will receive 12 game tickets, 3 parking passes, catered food & beverage as well as well as a welcome recognition on the scoreboard declaring them “Wayne’s Warriors” that evening. To nominate a group for Wayne’s Warrior suite, fill out the form below.”
He’s also established an annual charity event to give back to his hometown of Scarborough, Ontario, Canada via his “Wayne’s Road Hockey Warriors” program. Per the NHLPA, “WRHW is committed to helping underprivileged youth pursue their hockey dreams.” Simmonds’ importance to the game as a man of color cannot be understated and his piece on Willie O’Ree for The Players’ Tribune stands as one of the best pieces I’ve read on the pressures and difficulties a minority player faces when attempting to break into the NHL.
If the Flyers choose to move on from Simmonds due to cap reasons or Anthony’s aforementioned on-ice fit issues, I couldn’t blame them. I would, however, be bummed to lose a great player to watch in a Flyers’ sweater and an even better man off the ice.