A shrewd contender should ask themselves a simple question regarding a Wayne Simmonds trade: “Why wait?”
Simmonds’ name has been surfacing in trade rumblings lately, including when Darren Dreger weighed in on the matter during Tuesday’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading. Dreger and others indicate that Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is still mulling over options, with at least some possibility for Philly to simply re-sign the 30-year-old power-play whiz.
The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun reports (sub required) that Simmonds’ reps are expected to increase pressure on Fletcher to make a decision soon (maybe by the end of the week), and while that might lead to some sweaty palms, it’s likely for the best overall.
In fact, it could end up being a situation where everyone – the Flyers, Simmonds, and a potential new team – wins.
Consider the many factors at hand.
Lame duck: Let’s face it, the Flyers essentially sealed their fate without Simmonds when they handed James van Riemsdyk $7 million per season with considerable term. The two players are just too similar from an age and role (power play ace, big body) perspective.
Unfortunately, it’s been a tough season for Simmonds and an even rougher one for JVR. Maybe it would be better just to move on?
On one hand, Simmonds has motivation as his near-$4M cap hit is set to expire, as his next contract is a true mystery. Could he get big money and big term? Would a slower season really hurt his bargaining power? The current situation doesn’t seem particularly happy for Simmonds, and the Flyers might not have a ton of luck driving his value any higher.
Plenty of selling points: Luckily, Simmonds brings a lot to the table already.
We’re talking about a forward who’s not that far removed from regular 30-goal seasons, and while his next contract could be risky, he’s a better bargain rental than that Oscar winner you nabbed at RedBox.
Naturally, he checks a bunch of old-school “intangibles” boxes. He’s a hard-nosed winger who plays with an edge and scores goals in the vaunted “dirty areas.” That style of play makes him risky for a long-term contract, but for a rental?
(Cuts to GMs salivating.)
Buying time: The waiting game may or may not make sense for the Flyers, but there are some significant reasons why a contender should get him sooner rather than later.
For one thing, there’s the stupidly simple logic: if you land Simmonds, that means your competitors don’t get him.
It’s also worth noting that, giving Simmonds’ affordable cap hit, that same contender might be able to land another big fish. Considering rumors about the Golden Knights allegedly running out of time to trade for Erik Karlsson, it might help to cross an item off of the to-do list.
Let’s not forget human elements, either.
When a player’s traded, that person has to find somewhere new to live, possibly relocating family too. Some players are creatures of habit almost to a Rick Spielman level of zaniness (looking at you, Jack Eichel, hopefully with more reasonable pants policies). Disrupting those habits could be a real bother, particularly mid-season.
The sooner you’d land Simmonds, the more likely you’d be able to get him comfortable with new teammates and new surroundings before the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs kick in.
You’d get more time to make sure you’re optimizing strategies on the power play, where Simmonds seems like a dynamite difference-maker.
And, hey, getting extra looks at Simmonds could be crucial if said contender is thinking long and hard about signing the winger beyond this season. It would be dangerous to make such a decision based on, say, 30+ games, but that would sure beat about 15 regular-season contests.
The proactive argument makes sense for quite a few would-be trade targets, yet Simmonds ranks as one of the clearer cases, as he’s one of those UFAs whose teams have been noncommittal about the future.
(In other words, he’s not being wooed with free vodka to stay in town, like Artemi Panarin is with Columbus.)
Seeing Simmonds score big goals for a contender might sting for the Flyers and their fans, yet trading him might help that franchise get back to a place where they’re doing the contending. Sometimes that means making tough decisions, and this is a great time to pull off that Band-Aid.
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.