The Wayne Train is pulling into Union Station.
The Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly signed veteran forward Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $1.5 million contract literal moments into the NHL’s free-agent period. He will apparently have a full no-movement clause included in the deal.
Simmonds will slot in somewhere behind Mitch Marner and William Nylander on the right side, and potentially on the third line position recently vacated by Kasperi Kapanen, who was dealt this offseason to the Pittsburgh Penguins. If so, that will signify a profound change to the dynamic of the Leafs’ third line, which was mostly defined by its speed last season.
It’s also possible that Simmonds slides into a fourth-line function, forming a hometown veteran partnership with Jason Spezza that will cost only $2.2 million against the salary cap. However it seems there would need to be a third dimension added to that line on order to achieve Kyle Dubas’s mandate of actually becoming a harder team to play against.
Simmonds split time between the New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres last season in his 12th year in the league. He had eight goals and 25 points in 68 games, which is an obvious step back from his prime seasons, where he averaged 30 goals across a four-season stretch.
There is an obvious unknown tied to Simmonds. This is no longer a play driver, and he’s certainly lost a step. It will also be 10 months between games before Simmonds finally debuts with the Maple Leafs. The best-case scenario would be that he offers something similar to that of Corey Perry last season with the Dallas Stars, who brought physical elements and chipped in offensively.
If Simmonds can contribute in those ways, likely while assuming some secondary power-play minutes, this could be another value play for the Leafs — even if they didn’t quite strike a true bargain-bin agreement with the veteran.
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