Maple Leafs sign Wayne Simmonds in hopes of being hard to play against

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed winger Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $1.5 million contract early in the 2020 NHL Free Agent Frenzy. It’s easy to explain the logic of the move for Simmonds and the Maple Leafs, though it might be wiser on paper than it might pan out on the ice.

Heading into 2020 NHL Free Agency, Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas admitted he wanted to add grit.

“We would like to be incredibly hard to play against. It is a priority of ours,” Dubas told reporters on a Zoom call Monday morning, via TSN. “There’s no doubt that it is something we would like to address through free agency or through trades that come up …”

[PHT’s 2020 NHL Free Agent Tracker]

Maple Leafs sign Wayne Simmonds for one year, $1.5M

By adding Simmonds, the Maple Leafs inject some nastiness into their lineup. Over 909 regular season games, the 32-year-old accrued 1,123 penalty minutes and delivered plenty of hits.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen how much of Simmonds’ once-elite net-front game is really there. At one point, few players scored in tight at Simmonds’ level, making him a deadly power-play threat for “greasy goals.”

That part of Simmonds game really hasn’t been there lately. The power forward only managed eight goals and 25 points last season, and last crossed the 20+ goal threshold in 2017-18 (24 with Philadelphia).

Then again, maybe Simmonds going home to Toronto will provide some stability?

In 2018-19, Simmonds struggled with the Predators after his long stay with the Flyers ended. The 2019-20 season wasn’t kinder, as he went from the dismal Devils to a strange trade to the Sabres.

Now the Ontario native gets to play close to home. It sounds like he took a discount to do so at $1.5M, too.

In the grand scheme of things, the Maple Leafs satisfy certain critics without breaking the bank. Granted, every dollar counts when you’re as cap-challenged as Toronto, but it’s easy to see why they made this signing.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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