With the NHL’s trade deadline fast approaching, almost every team has a reason to wonder “what’s next”? The Philadelphia Flyers are no exception. No bigger name appears to be so obviously in play in Philadelphia as Wayne Simmonds.
Simmonds is now 30 years old and in the last year of a very “team friendly” deal. Despite being markedly underpaid in Philadelphia, he’s scored 378 points in 582 games, including over 90 power play goals. His scoring touch and rare combination of intangibles suggests Simmonds could be a hot commodity before the February 25th deadline passes. Though beloved and a fan favorite in Philadelphia, it’s likely his time here has all but run its course.
So, what teams could be focusing on Simmonds and what could the possible return include? The answer will depend on which other big names fall to teams that would otherwise have coveted Simmonds, but the market for him is beginning to take shape. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun suggested as recently as last week that the top contenders for Simmonds include Boston, Tampa Bay, Nashville and Winnipeg, just to name a few.
There is serious interest in the hulking, talented player and regardless of Philly’s recent run, my understanding is that more likely than not Simmonds will still be moved before the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Boston, Tampa Bay, Nashville and Winnipeg are among several contenders sources say have shown different levels of interest in Simmonds.
Let’s look at the contenders, why they might choose to add Simmonds and what some of the possible pieces could look like in return….
The Nashville Predators:
Nashville has a serious power play problem. At just 12.6%, they’re ranked 31st in the league and more than 10% behind two of their biggest Western Conference rivals, the Winnipeg Jets and San Jose Sharks. In the playoffs it becomes even more important to connect on the man advantage, especially when things tighten up and goaltenders are known to put together the kind of hot streaks that can sometimes steal a series. In short, even though Nashville has lived on the edge and given up a lot of picks in recent years, they simply can’t afford to leave an anemic power play unaddressed.
Enter Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has been a power play expert in Philadelphia and though his numbers aren’t what they were a few years ago, since 2010-2011 only one player had more power play goals than Wayne Simmonds: Alex Ovechkin. You can argue Simmonds has dropped off a bit, but it’s hard to argue his entire body of work looking very appealing to a team in need of a major power play boost.
Beyond the power play, Nashville became the landing spot for Peter Laviolette aka “coach jam”, who was famous in Philly for loving players who played with the intangibles Simmonds possesses. Few players would have played through the number of injuries Simmonds sustained last year and even fewer would have still done it and scored 24 goals. Simmonds did and he did it without complaint. A reunion between the hard-nosed Simmonds and the coach who couldn’t get enough physicality would seem like a fair bet, no?
What’s even more clear is that Nashville’s time is now. Laviolette was brought in to help win this team a cup and he’s being given the horses to push the pace. Simmonds would be a fine fit and exactly the type of player the Predators need to help things along.
The potential return:
Nashville still has their own 2019 first round pick and the cap space to add Simmonds without removing talent from the roster. Chuck Fletcher would probably at least ask about 22-year-old left wing Kevin Fiala, but it seems more likely Nashville would attempt to part with 19-year-old sniper Eeli Tolvanen. Tolvanen who was a former first round selection in the same draft that brought the Flyers Morgan Frost is a player that many scouting services had ranked in their top 15. He’s also blessed with a wicked wrist shot and an incredible release, which helped him register 19 goals and 17 assists in 49 games in the KHL last year.
Tolvanen is a bit of a hot button topic, because some say his AHL numbers this season aren’t all that impressive. I would at least consider the fact that Tolvanen is only 19 years old and still adjusting to professional hockey in North America. He’s also playing on a Milwaukee Admirals team that’s highest scorer has 34 points in 51 games and lacks a lot of firepower. Is it alarming that he has 9 goals and 10 assists in 37 games in the AHL, especially at his age? Not to me. He still needs a little more time, but at 19 that’s relatively common.
Beyond those pieces, Nashville could try to push college defenseman, Dante Fabbro or others into the mix. Fabbro was once very highly thought of but may still be several years away. I’m not sure I can see Fletcher prioritizing a college defenseman who, quite frankly, hasn’t been that impressive at Boston University or with the Canadian World Junior team, but it’s something to watch for. I would imagine Fabbro’s inclusion would be dependent on what other offers for Simmonds may ultimately look like and what Nashville might be willing to include with him.
The Winnipeg Jets:
Winnipeg has not only been mentioned as a clear buyer at this deadline, but also as a team that’s actively interested in Wayne Simmonds and that makes perfect sense. Winnipeg has a somewhat loaded lineup of scorers in Mark Scheifele, Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor, but they’ve not gotten the secondary scoring they’ve hoped for. Patrik Laine has been wildly inconsistent and Kristian Vesalainen, who Winnipeg hoped might stick in the NHL this year, ended up in the KHL.
So how does Simmonds fit? Well, for starters, Winnipeg plays a heavy style and they deploy a roster of players who almost all have size. Imagine playing a team with two outstanding power forwards in Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele, along with ultra-physical players like Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Byfuglien? That’s a strong playoff lineup and one that Simmonds could help with both his intangibles and scoring prowess.
Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is not known to be a huge wheeler and dealer at the trade deadline, but times and expectations change. With every reason to believe they can be a cup contender, a motivating Western Conference Final loss last year and the cap space and assets to obtain Simmonds, there are few reasons to believe Winnipeg isn’t a legitimate option for a Simmonds trade. The only question is whether or not the Jets prefer Simmonds, or his cost, over the likes of players like Matt Duchene, Mark Stone or Artemi Panarin.
The potential return:
If the Jets are truly focused on obtaining Simmonds, Chuck Fletcher is going to have a lot of options to work with. Winnipeg has their own first round pick in 2019, as well as 22-year-old Jack Roslovic, who would probably be the most viable trade chip from their NHL roster. Roslovic was the 25th overall pick in the 2015 draft and he has produced 7 goals and 10 assists in 59 games for Winnipeg. A very smart player who has been known to be able to think and play with top players in the past, Roslovic is an attractive trade piece. Will the lack of scoring drive the Flyers away? Probably not. Roslovic has been outstanding at the AHL level and he’s only received 9:54 ATOI in the NHL this season. He also doesn’t receive significant powerplay time, because of how many weapons the Jets have ahead of him and that’s where he’d likely be most explosive.
Another player to consider would be Kristian Vesalainen, who dominated the SM-liiga in Finland, before making his way to North America this season and then retreating to the KHL. Vesalainen is just 19 and someone the Jets seemed enamored with before his trip to the KHL. That said, it seems unlikely they’d move him unless he rubbed the Jets brass the wrong way with his KHL move. Mason Appleton, Dylan Samberg, Nicolas Petan and others could also be somewhat interesting as part of potential Simmonds trade.
The Tampa Bay Lightning:
Another team that’s been rumored to be interested in Wayne Simmonds is Tampa Bay. On the surface Tampa Bay has a staggering 96 points with 61 games played, which means if they literally forfeited every game between now and the end of the year they might still make the playoffs. They’re a ridiculous +80 (which is nearly double the next closest team) and they rank first in goals scored. What could Tampa Bay possibly need?
Upon deeper inspection what you’ll find in Tampa Bay is, despite all their regular season success and their dynamic, high flying, offense, there are some lingering doubts. They’re hungry and possibly even expectant, given their regular season performance, but last year’s elimination looms large. Tampa’s 2017-2018 season ended when an equally talented Lightning team ran into the Washington Capitals. Gritty players like Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly, made a difference in the series and of course Washington went on to win the Stanley Cup. The Lightning have not forgotten those losses or what a player like Tom Wilson can do to a skilled team. Could they want a player like Simmonds to combat Wilson?
Simmonds can be a hard hitting, no nonsense type player, but he also has shown over the course of many years that he can play on a line with players who are extremely skilled. That combination of talents isn’t easy to find. The road to the cup is littered with teams that tried to grab “tough guys” and plug them in beside elite forwards, slowing down the line and ultimately failing. Simmonds, on the other hand, isn’t just a tough guy. Simmonds is a clear top nine winger and it couldn’t hurt Tampa Bay to acquire someone who can not only score with Tom Wilson, but also put him in his place.
The potential return:
This is where it gets a little murky. Tampa Bay’s huge deal to acquire Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller in 2017-2018 means that their first and second round picks (either of which could conditionally go to the Rangers this year) are off the table. Would the Flyers consider a future first for Simmonds? Probably not by itself, especially, because the Flyers already have a boatload of prospects and picks themselves. While a 2020 first round pick would still have value, it simply might not have as much value to the Flyers, given the situation.
Tampa does have a collection of prospects like Taylor Raddysh (once considered a top prospect), Alex Barre-Boulet, who is undersized, but extremely skilled, and defenseman Callan Foote (son of Adam Foote). They also have 21-year-old Anthony Cirelli in the NHL, who has shown decent scoring touch at every level and the ability to play both ends of the ice. Would Tampa Bay consider moving something off their NHL roster to make a deal? They may need to at least consider it or lose Simmonds to a rival via trade.
If Tampa wants to add Simmonds they’ll have to come up with a compelling package and it might be harder for them than it is for some other contenders. The Lightning are certainly a fit and they do have some assets to spare, but they’re perhaps not as well positioned to meet the Flyers demands as a few other teams, unless they get creative.
The Boston Bruins:
Another hot name for a potential Simmonds deal has been the Boston Bruins, but things became a little bit more complex when they acquired Charlie Coyle for Ryan Donato and a conditional pick. Are they still in the mix for Simmonds? Do they feel Coyle fills their immediate need for size? One thing is certain…the Bruins absolutely need secondary scoring, especially with a likely first round match up with Toronto on the horizon.
Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron have combined for nearly 42% of Boston’s goals and only David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk have more than 10 goals. Adding Charlie Coyle did add another 10-goal scorer to their ranks, who could admittedly be at least somewhat more productive in Boston, but is that enough to be confident they’re a Cup contender?
Boston plays a heavy game, especially in the playoffs and they’ll certainly have to embrace that vs Toronto, should they end up playing them in the first round. Wayne Simmonds clearly fits their style and could provide some pop playing beside a center like David Krejci. Additionally, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuuka Rask are all over 30 years of age, meaning the heart of this lineup must win now. Simmonds, even in a down year, would rank 5th in goals for Boston and create space for others, which might be exactly what they need.
The potential return:
In trading Ryan Donato to Minnesota for Charlie Coyle the Bruins did manage to find a way to add talent without losing their own first round pick in 2019. Rumors have long persisted that any deal for Simmonds would have to include a first and a prospect or a high-end prospect with equivalent value. It might not be easy to let go of another top pick, especially given the prior experience the Bruins had acquiring Rick Nash, but they still have that chip to play if they so choose.
The Bruins are in no place to include young NHL roster players, given their scoring issues and the age of their current core. Jack Studnicka is one interesting prospect who has 59 points in 48 OHL games and who got a brief taste of the AHL last year. Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork or Trent Frederic could also find their way into the mix, but in truth, the Flyers already possess a lot of prospects with similar potential. Peter Cehlarik has shown consistent AHL scoring touch and is now playing at the NHL level, but again, the Flyers have similar talent, which they might not want to block.
At least in Boston’s case, with the removal of Donato from the Flyers radar, any move would likely have to include Boston’s first round pick to be viable. Though Simmonds is a great fit and Boston is certainly a buyer, the prospects of the Flyers dealing with them may be limited by their existing depth and the potential return. Should they elect not to move their first round selection the Flyers may have to look elsewhere for a proper deal.
The Toronto Maple Leafs:
It wouldn’t be trade deadline season in the NHL without rumoring literally everyone as a potential candidate to end up in Toronto. Kyle Dubas doesn’t seem like the type to get hot and bothered over a rental player, specifically one that doesn’t fall into the category of being an advanced stats darling, but could Simmonds end up in Toronto?
What does this rumor have going for it? Well, for starters, Toronto probably isn’t in the hunt for Mark Stone, Artemi Panarin or Matt Duchene. The cost to obtain those players is likely to be exorbitant and Toronto simply can’t afford to re-sign them. Wayne Simmonds falls into the second tier of free agents, who still comes with expense, but who can be justifiably obtained, used and allowed to go to free agency, without too much guilt.
Toronto also has traditionally liked the type of player Wayne Simmonds is and he’s a hometown guy, which makes him an interesting fit. Beyond that there’s been talk of Toronto wanting or needing a more physical presence and Wayne Simmonds is certainly that. Zach Hyman or Connor Brown are probably the most physical wingers in the lineup who could conceivably play with top talent. Can Simmonds bring more than those players at wing? Most likely.
Simmonds is an attractive fit, especially as it can be argued with so much scoring depth and a revamped defense, the one thing Toronto doesn’t have is the physicality to survive a series vs Boston. Dubas may not want to bite, but after years of futility Leafs fans can see the light and they can be very vocal. That may drive Dubas to at least call Fletcher on Simmonds.
The potential return:
Having already given away their first round pick in 2019 to acquire Jake Muzzin, things might be a little bit more complex here with respect to a Simmonds deal. Chuck Fletcher would be crazy not to at least ask for Kasperi Kapanen, who has been outstanding in Toronto this season. He has scored 18 goals and 19 assists in 59 games and he would probably have been even more productive if not for some line shuffling. Kapanen is also a restricted free agent that will command a raise and with Matthews and Marner both getting significantly richer, it’s hard to see where that money comes from in Toronto.
The problem with a Kapanen for Simmonds swap is largely that Kapanen would appear to have more value than Simmonds in many people’s eyes at this point. That means acquiring Kapanen could require a larger deal, one that simply can’t play out right now. Andreas Johnsson is another young player the Leafs have brought up this year who has been electric, showcasing game breaking speed at times. Johnsson has also been productive at the NHL level this season, putting up 15 goals and 16 assists in 52 games. Could he be easier to pry out of Toronto’s hands? Perhaps.
Other names that could potentially be in play could be players like Jeremy Bracco, an undersized forward at the AHL level or defenseman (and ex-Morgan Frost teammate) Rasmus Sandin, as well as Timothy Liljegren. Each of these prospects has something to like, as well as some odds and ends to pick apart, but they’re at least worthy of consideration. The biggest impediment to a potential Simmonds deal, at least in my eyes, would appear to be that it relies on Kyle Dubas “getting wild” and really going for it. That doesn’t seem like it fits his way of thinking, but it certainly doesn’t mean it can’t happen.
Other possible suitors....
The Vegas Golden Knights:
No one should rule out Vegas as a potential landing spot for Wayne Simmonds. The Golden Knights have recently had scouts in Philadelphia and at Lehigh Valley Phantoms games as well. Though spotting scouts doesn’t always mean what it seems, the combination of several scouting trips raises some eyebrows. Vegas may not be quite as potent as they were last year, but with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal they’re still contenders and they covet high character players. Simmonds is certainly that. Vegas could additionally find a way to attempt to re-sign Simmonds if they really wanted to pursue that avenue.
Items of interest:
For a relatively new franchise, Vegas isn’t short on assets they could consider moving. Pieces that could potentially be asked for as a part of a Simmonds trade might include a 2019 first round pick, Nicolas Hague (D), Erik Brannstrom (D), Lucas Elvenes (F) or others. With so many picks in the next two seasons, it would seem more likely Vegas would be inclined to use those in trade, rather than prospects who are close to the NHL.
The San Jose Sharks:
It seems the yearly story line in San Jose is that they’re a very good regular season team that can’t seem to find the right mix of skill and playoff caliber performers. With players like Joe Pavelski, Logan Couture, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Evander Kane, along with 39-year-old Joe Thornton, the time is now in San Jose. It’s unknown if Karlsson will re-sign in San Jose and much of the core of the Sharks is well over 30 years of age. Are they willing to potentially sacrifice some assets to add another player that can play with their skilled players and be a tough as nails performer in the playoffs? Possibly.
Items of interest:
Many of San Jose’s picks are conditionally unavailable to the Flyers due to previous trades, making finding a perfect fit more complex. Some pieces Chuck Fletcher might take a look at could include Ryan Merkley (D), Kevin Labanc (F), Alexander Chmelevski (F), Ivan Chekhovich (F) and others. In fact, a deal here could be somewhat difficult to find, especially if the Flyers don’t care for the potential trade chips.
The Calgary Flames:
Calgary is reportedly set to be a buyer at the deadline and with good reason. Unlike teams like Boston, who may be buying out of necessity, Calgary has been terrific all year and is now seeking to make sure they’ve done all they can do to extend their success into the playoffs. A roster that already has some serious grit with Matthew Tkachuk, Mark Giordano and others, could be a nightmare to play against in a long physical series. Adding Simmonds to Calgary would conceivably make it that much more miserable to face the Flames in the postseason.
Items of interest:
Calgary has its own first round pick, which we’ve been told is a virtual prerequisite for any Simmonds deal, making things much less complicated. They also have several attractive prospects like Juuso Valimaki (D), Dillon Dube (F), Oliver Kylington (D) and others. Would they move Sam Bennett in a larger deal? Regardless, they certainly have the assets to make a Simmonds deal work and they could come calling if they believe his skills improve their playoff odds.