The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed veteran forward Wayne Simmonds to a two-year contract extension worth $1.8 million with an average annual value (AAV) of $900,000, the team announced Tuesday morning.
After multiple short stints with the Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils, and Buffalo Sabres, the Scarborough native just finished his first season with the Maple Leafs after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract with them on Oct. 9, 2020. He won the fans over quickly after his first interview with the team where he said he can score goals, but also “isn’t afraid to punch your head off.”
To start the 2020-21 season, Simmonds immediately pleased fans after dropping the gloves with Ben Chiarot in the home opener against the Montreal Canadiens. He had flashes of offensive prowess after a slow start, scoring in three straight games and then following up with a two-goal performance against the Vancouver Canucks. In this same game, however, he was struck by a clearing attempt and missed six weeks with a broken wrist.
After that wrist injury, Simmonds wasn’t the same. He managed only two goals and four points in 25 games after the injury and only one assist in the playoffs. He also seemed to shy away from throwing too many big hits, likely out of caution so he wouldn’t re-aggravate his wrist injury.
Another Kick at the Can for Simmonds
It’s no secret that the Leafs aren’t feeling accomplished after blowing yet another first-round matchup, this time after being up 3-1 in the series. It’s hard to imagine Simmonds isn’t right in the thick of this mindset and wants another shot to make things right. And for $900,000 a year, it doesn’t come at a price tag anybody should be losing sleep over.
Simmonds is what he is at this point. The analytics don’t really support his game, and he will likely never be the 30-goal scorer he was in 2016-17 again. But he’s primarily been utilized in a role where he’s not going to be actively costing the team games. And as much as the team should be separating the player from the person, you have to believe this signing was more for the dressing room than it was for the on-ice product.
Simmonds wears his heart on his sleeve, and he proved that time and time again in 2020-21. He was never afraid to clear out the front of the net, and gestures such as fighting Alex Edler after the collision with Zach Hyman likely go a long way for the guys in the dressing room.
The Maple Leafs find themselves in yet another situation where they’re asking themselves what went wrong and what can they do to ensure it doesn’t happen again. After some crucial misplays in Games 5 and 6 and a terribly flat effort in Game 7, it’s evident that the Leafs need players with a killer instinct. And while his legs may not be where they were five years ago, there’s no question that Simmonds wants to win and wants to do it for his hometown team. And the more the Leafs can establish that mentality, the better.
Alex Hobson is a third year broadcasting student at Niagara College. He has been writing about sports since 2005 and has been with The Hockey Writers since October of 2020. He covers the Toronto Maple Leafs, World Juniors, and the NHL Entry Draft, and is also part of the Maple Leafs Lounge Podcast, presented by THW. For interview requests or any other inquiries, you can follow Alex’s social media pages listed at the bottom of his articles like this one.