PHILADELPHIA — Listening to Philadelphia Flyers captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek speak about Wayne Simmonds following their 4-3 overtime win in Saturday’s Stadium Series game, you could tell just how much the rumors of the veteran forward’s likely departure by Monday’s NHL trade deadline has affected them.
“He’s one of my best friends, so it’s been kind of stressful for me as well,” Voracek said. “It’s something we cannot change in the locker room and he knows it. He’s been a warrior throughout last year, this year. Whatever happens, it’s either going to be tough or good. He’s been amazing. He’s been a good friend of mine and we’ll see what’s going to happen.”
The team’s postgame MVP award — a helmet acquired during a preseason team-bonding trip in Vail, Colorado — went to Simmonds following their dramatic come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field. It was an emotional victory and an emotional postgame scene in the dressing room.
“Pretty special. Got a little bit choked up,” Simmonds said of being awarded the helmet. “I’ve known those guys [Giroux and Voracek] for so long. Even before I came to Philadelphia I knew Jake and G, so it’s pretty special getting it from those guys.”
Simmonds can be an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and with the Flyers’ playoff hopes on thin ice, general manager Chuck Fletcher will likely deal the 30-year-old as he reshapes the roster he inherited from Ron Hextall.
Despite all the rumors the last few weeks, Simmonds has done his best to block out the noise.
“Don’t watch TSN, Sportsnet, Twitter, Instagram, any of those things,” he said. “It’s obviously tough not to see, but I always try to be a professional. I’m never going to quit on anything. I’ll play right to the very end. Hopefully I’m here still come Monday, but if not, it is what it is. I’m happy with what I’ve done for this city. I can truly say that I’m grateful for everything that I’ve gotten here.”
While more trades will likely come down on Sunday, Simmonds won’t be glued to his television or his phone checking for updates. It’s an off day and he has plans to spend the day with friends who are in town, savoring the Flyers’ first outdoor game victory.
“You savor it a little bit more. This has been my home,” he said. “I live in Toronto in the offseason and then I’m in Philadelphia. I consider myself a part of this community. It was special being out there and getting the two points tonight.”
Relief will come by Monday afternoon when the questions will finally be answered and Simmonds will know where he’ll be playing the final few months of the 2018-19 season. It’s not just hockey that’s been on his mind either. His wife, Crystal, is six and a half months pregnant, so knowing where they’ll deliver their baby is something they’re eager to find out.
Simmonds and Voracek joined the Flyers in separate trades in June 2011 and have developed a close friendship. Giroux had been a Flyer for a few seasons before Simmonds’ arrival, but the trio quickly became a strong core ever since.
That core will likely be missing a piece in a few days time.
“It’s a tough situation. You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Giroux. “He’s been an ultimate warrior. He’s been the best teammate all these years. It’s not something we can control, so it’s definitely frustrating a little bit. We’ve all been here for a long time. We understand the business of it, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
“There’s not enough good words I can say about Wayne Simmonds.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.