Wayne Simmonds appears to be skating on some thin ice this season. The rugged winger found himself in the press box last week, and with the Toronto Maple Leafs’ recent re-acquisition of Kyle Clifford, it appears there’s now some more internal competition for the fourth line.
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So far in 2021-22, Simmonds has recorded one goal and two assists in the 15 games he’s appeared in. He’s had some nights where he’s over 12 minutes of ice time and some nights where he’s been used very sparingly. For example, Simmonds played only 6:56 against the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier in the season. There’s no doubt it hasn’t quite worked out for the Scarborough native.
Wrist Injury in 2020-21 Derailed Simmonds With the Maple Leafs
When it’s all said and done for Simmonds, whenever that time comes, expect to hear a lot about how a random shot from a teammate derailed his time as a Maple Leaf. The play happened when the Leafs were taking on the Vancouver Canucks and Simmonds was having a huge night, potting two goals. He then got a puck off the wrist and missed six weeks. He was never the same after his injury, scoring only two goals in his final 26 games of 2020-21.
Simmonds isn’t paid to score goals anymore, although cashing in from time to time would certainly provide him some more ice time. The Leafs were using him as a net-front presence last season on their second unit with the man advantage, but again, another aspect that got derailed because of the injury. This season, Pierre Engvall and Nick Ritchie find themselves getting a look on the second power-play unit, and Simmonds has been left to only five-on-five ice time, and not very much of it.
Simmonds Holds No-Trade Protection
Don’t expect to see Simmonds traded tomorrow just because Clifford is now on the team, but expect to see his leash even shorter from head coach Sheldon Keefe. The veteran winger has a full no-trade clause for this season, while next season, he can submit a list of 10 teams he wants to avoid. It’s hard to determine at this point if there’s even a market to deal Simmonds, as he’s under contract at $900,000 for next season as well. This could be a trade that ends up also involving one of the defensemen who the Maple Leafs are reportedly shopping.
If he’s not moving his feet and finishing his checks, Simmonds is an ineffective player. He’s not the most fleet of foot and has to use his big body to create positioning and space on opponents. He certainly carries an intimidation factor when he plays, but the problem is he’s not playing a ton, so it’s hard to put fear in someone while you’re riding the pine.
The Maple Leafs have a ton of talent chomping at the bit to play for the big club. The likes of Joey Anderson, Kirill Semyonov, Josh Ho-Sang, Alex Steeves are all players on the franchise’s radar about receiving a bigger look. Throw in the fact Ilya Mikheyev just had his pins removed in his thumb and is expected to be back sooner than later.
Future Awfully Blurry for Simmonds in Toronto
While he’s a hometown hero and someone who is a huge part of the community he plays in, Simmonds’ future with the Maple Leafs is certainly in jeopardy. It’s sad, to be honest, because there was so much hype about him finally “coming home.” He was supposed to be providing Toronto with some secondary scoring and sandpaper, and it just hasn’t been there on a nightly basis.
If the Maple Leafs end up shopping Simmonds, his old teams in the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings could both have some interest, so perhaps there ends up being a deal worth reaching. You can’t discredit the fact the bruising winger has recorded 22 points in 51 Stanley Cup Playoff games, so a contender in need of some forward depth could very well come calling.
Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas is a very loyal man. He’s only going to move Simmonds if he thinks that’s the very last resort. Dubas hates giving up on players after signing one to a two-year deal then trading him halfway through year one of the contract will be some unchartered waters. Regardless, expect Dubas to put Simmonds’ name out there to see if he gets any bites.
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Shane’s been a part of The Hockey Writers team since 2020, covering the Toronto Maple Leafs & Pittsburgh Penguins. A constant contributor, his versatile perspective on game results and everything off the ice produces diverse content. You can also find him on the Maple Leafs Lounge podcast with Peter Baracchini and Alex Hobson. Follow along on Twitter @ShugMcSween