By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
For years Wayne Simmonds has been a corner-stone of the Flyers roster. He is a premier power forward in the NHL and is also on one of the best value contracts in the league. But his contract that pays him $3.975 million per year comes to an end after next season.
The idea of moving on from Simmonds is a hard pill to swallow for multiple reasons. His leadership on and off the ice, his point production, and his prowess to get to the dirty areas all make him a unique player. If the Flyers move on from Simmonds it will be hard to find any one player to replace a 25-30 goal scorer and 60-point player, though replacing Simmonds via committee seems like a real possibility.
As the Flyers young forwards start to take strides developing, it’s becoming a little easier to see what the future of this team will look like. With Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, and Nolan Patrick all growing into bright young players, their continued development and success could be the key to replacing Simmonds.
Travis Konecny has emerged as a quite the feisty player and blossoming goal scorer, which sounds a lot like Simmonds. Although Dave Hakstol has been critical of Konecny, he is still only in his sophomore season and has racked up 22 goals and 44 points to go along with 44 penalty minutes. “TK” is a great all around player, but hasn’t seen much powerplay time, which is where Simmonds thrives.
Luckily the Flyers have Nolan Patrick who is starting to develop into an offensive threat as his rookie season starts to come to a close. Early this season he was limited in minutes and wasn’t always given the best linemates. As the season progressed, he earned more and more trust from Hakstol which lead to better opportunities for him. In fact, it was when Simmonds missed a few weeks with an injury in mid-February that Patrick took over his net-front presence on the powerplay.
Nolan Patrick excels on the powerplay because of his strong hockey sense, something the scouts raved about leading up to the draft. Combine his IQ with his silky hands and he is a very dangerous net-front player that one day can replace Simmonds’s production.
Another key forward that could help cushion the blow of losing Simmonds is rookie Oskar Lindblom. While the numbers haven’t been adding up just yet, he has easily been the most dangerous scoring threat on a nightly basis. A standout player in the Swedish Elite League, he scored 22 goals and 47 points during the 2016-17 season. He brought his talent to America this season with the Phantoms, and recorded 16 goals and 34 points in 54 AHL games this season before his call up. His potential at the NHL level is sky-high.
The current forward lineup already leaves Simmonds out of the top six, and Patrick has been getting more chances on the powerplay. Simmonds has been relegated to the third line, and given the Flyers’ shallow bottom six, he is no longer a key member on the five-on-five lines. Since the beginning of February he has seven goals and fourteen points in 20 games which, while not terrible, is much less than his usual production.
The Wayne Train has been a key member of the Flyers lineup since 2011, but his days as a Flyer may be numbered. He will turn 30 in August and, like most stars his age, will seek the last big contract of his career. While the cap situation isn’t a problem right now, things are bound to get tight soon enough with Ivan Provorov, Travis Konency, Nolan Patrick, and Travis Sanheim all due for big raises in the next three years. Unfortunately, keeping Simmonds doesn’t make economic sense for the Flyers.
The eventual loss of Simmonds isn’t going to be a happy occasion, but Ron Hextall has done a great job drafting and making sure that losing a pillar of the team won’t be the end of a competitive era. While finding one player to replace Simmonds is next to impossible, The Flyers have a young group of players that can come together and cushion the blow after the Wayne Train leaves the station.
photo credit: bleacherreport.com