March 19, 2018 | 4:03pm ET
By Anthony Di Marco, The Fourth Period

SIMMONDS FUTURE UP IN THE AIR?

 
header_simmonds.jpg

Wayne Simmonds, right wing

 
 

The tenure of Paul Holmgren as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers was viewed as a rollercoaster by many.  The ups and downs were hard to track, and frankly, it would take all day (and then some) to properly go through all of the high-profile moves Holmgren executed as time as GM. 

Through all the moves, there was one consistency that rarely seemed to lack: big contracts. Contracts like Ilya Bryzgalov’s, Mike Richards’ and Vinny Lecavalier’s will forever be tied to the legacy of Holmgren as a GM.

But through all of these contracts, there has been one in particular that stood out for all the right reasons: that of Wayne Simmonds.

Simmonds landed himself a contract of six years worth $23.85 million ($3.975 AAV) in the summer of 2012, which took effect starting in the 2013-14 season. Since signing the deal, Simmonds has emerged as a perennial 25-goal scorer (having hit that plateau in each of the last four seasons, and currently sitting at 23), while having scored at least 30 twice in his career. In an era where goal scoring is at a premium, less than $4 million per season for a 25-goal scoring winger is a steal, to say the least.

But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end, and in the summer of 2019, that will be true with the contract of Simmonds.

After doing some digging on the subject, a source close to the situation helped shed some light on the Simmonds’ future – Simmonds is eligible to sign an extension as early as July 1. When asked what the chances were that Simmonds would move this off-season, the source told me it was a “better than” a 50/50 chance, continuing on to say that he thinks “it will happen.”

This will come as horrible news to many in the Flyers’ fan base, if it does hold true, as Simmonds has been a fan favorite over the course of his seven seasons in Philadelphia. He has epitomized “Flyers hockey” and has been the emotional leader of the team for the last number of years, along with serving as an alternate captain since 2014. With the Flyers and the league trending in a more speed, skill oriented direction, players like Simmonds do not come around often, especially those that can produce effectively and consistently.

With the aforementioned remarkable production of Simmonds over the duration of his “cap friendly” contract, it’s fair to conclude the player will be in the market for a healthy raise. Just three weeks ago, the Pittsburgh Penguins locked up right wing Patric Hornqvist to a five-year, $26.5 million ($5.3 AAV) contract. 

Hornqvist, 31, the same age Simmonds will be when his current contract expires.

Simmonds will use Hornqvist’s deal as a starting point, and will likely ask for more due to higher career-point production. Considering this, it is easy to conclude that Simmonds will be in the hunt for an AAV of around $6 million along with at least five years of term.

Although Simmonds’ production illustrates that he may deserve a contract of that magnitude, it would be hard for Ron Hextall to justify handing out that type of deal.

The Flyers’ depth down the right side at forward has been clear this season, as Simmonds is currently pegged as the third line right wing behind Travis Konecny and Jakub Voracek. With the emergence of the 21-year-old Konecny (19 goals, 23 assists this season) over the last 30 games or so as the team’s top line right wing, it is clear the former 2015 first-round pick is a part of the long-term plan in Philly. 

Voracek, who is one assist from first in the NHL with 60, is in year-two of an eight-year, $66 million contract. It’s safe to assume Voracek is not going to be going anywhere anytime soon, as he has been a premiere winger in the NHL for the last numbers of year, and seems poised to break his career high 81 point total in a single season (currently sitting at 78).

Despite again reaching 23 goals, the drop off in Simmonds’ game has been noticeable this season. Similar to the season of Brayden Schenn a year ago, Simmonds’ production and effectiveness has almost become exclusive to the powerplay, as almost 50% of his goal production (11 PPGs) has come on the man-advantage. Although still an amazing net front presence, his lack of even strength productivity (as he currently sports a -12 rating) makes him expendable, especially considering how well rookie Nolan Patrick has done in front of the net while Simmonds was out with injury.

Considering all this, it is perfectly reasonable to conclude that Hextall may in fact look to dangle Simmonds this summer. By the time Simmonds’ new contract will take effect in the fall of 2019, he will already be 31 years of age. It is hard to imagine Hextall being prepared to commit significant money and term to an aging power forward that has slipped down to the bottom-six on the depth chart. In a salary cap world, it is important not to “fall in love” with players due to past success (just ask the Chicago Blackhawks about Brent Seabrook).

All things considered, the possibility of Hextall keeping the “Wayne Train” around for the duration of his deal is logical, even if he will not be extended by the Flyers. With the Flyers taking a big step this year in the team’s development and asserting themselves into the upper half of the Eastern conference, perhaps Hextall will look to use Simmonds as an “own rental” for next season, like the Toronto Maple Leafs elected to do with left wing James van Riemsdyk this year. But after seeing what kind of returns players like Rick Nash and Derek Brassard fetched on the trade market, Hextall may have a hard time losing Simmonds for nothing next summer.

Anthony Di Marco is the Philadelphia Correspondent for The Fourth Period.
Follow him on Twitter.