Sometimes all it takes is a thought to make the hockey world abuzz with speculation. This week, that thought came from Pierre LeBrun as he discussed a potential landing zone for Wayne Simmonds ahead of the 2019 Trade Deadline. As he said on Vancouver’s TSN 1040, and later transcribed by Chris Nichols:
But you know where I’d really like to see Wayne Simmonds is in Tampa Bay… So I don’t know this for a fact, but I’d be shocked if that hasn’t come up in Tampa’s internal meetings, that they should at least inquire.
While this is clearly just speculation on the part of LeBrun, it does lead to a tantalizing thought for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With a roster already loaded with high-end talent, could Simmonds be the final piece to push the Lightning to a Stanley Cup Championship?
Simmonds Would Fix a Lightning Shortcoming
Right now, the Lightning are the clear favorite to win the 2019 Stanley Cup. The team has a world-class goaltender, a top-end defensive unit and the highest scoring offense in the NHL. There’s really only one question mark on this roster that could be addressed before the playoffs: toughness.
It’s well known that the Lightning are a team built more for speed and finesse than grit and toughness. Even with players like Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn, both of whom could be considered power forwards on paper, the team lacks a true physical presence. While this isn’t necessarily an issue during the regular season, by the playoffs, it can turn into one.
As we saw in the 2018 Eastern Conference Final, the Washington Capitals wore down the Lightning with their physical game plan. They kept playing the body and refused to allow any space for one of the Bolts’ scorers to take a high-chance shot. By Game 7, Tampa Bay looked completely gassed and were unable to break through their opponents’ defenses.
By adding a player like Simmonds, the Lightning would have their own power forward who could keep their opponent off-balance while opening up needed space on the ice. Plus, he is typically a productive scorer who could see his season rejuvenated by playing alongside all-world talent like Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
Lighting Can’t Afford Simmonds
Now for the reality check. While adding Simmonds to the Lightning roster would help fill in a final hole, it will simply never happen. First and foremost, Tampa Bay can’t afford to make another blockbuster deadline deal one year after they acquired Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.
In that trade, the Lightning gave up two top prospects (Brett Howden and Libor Hajek), a 2018 first-round draft pick, a conditional 2019 second-round pick and Vladislav Namestnikov. What is of most importance is the conditional 2019 second-round pick, which would become a first-round pick in the 2019 Draft if Tampa Bay wins the Stanley Cup. Due to this, the team won’t be able to include their 2019 first-round pick in a trade made at this deadline.
Assuming that the Philadelphia Flyers will want at least a first-round draft pick and a prospect for Simmonds, the Lightning would already be at a disadvantage in a trade discussion. Typically, you won’t deal a first rounder one year out, meaning that Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois would have to pull from his current prospect pile to entertain a trade.
Losing multiple players like Adam Erne, Alex Barre-Boulet or Alexander Volkov for what would amount to a short-term rental would go against what the Lightning have been building over the last decade. Former GM Steve Yzerman never made a trade purely for the short-term, and it seems unlikely that BriseBois would stray from this path either.
Simmonds Isn’t Necessary for Lightning Success
Ultimately, while the Lightning trading for Simmonds would be a lot of fun, it just isn’t going to happen. Even if they were willing to part with the necessary assets to make the trade, adding Simmonds could cause more harm than good.
When you have a team playing as well as the Lightning, trying to add one more piece could end up breaking the puzzle instead of solving it. You see it all the time when a team goes out and makes a big deadline splash only to have that player struggle when he reaches his new team.
Besides this, the Lightning are already struggling to find ice time for all of the players on their roster right now. Adding Simmonds would likely force a young forward like Mathieu Joseph to sit, taking away the opportunity for the rookie to gain some valuable playoff experience early in his career.
With all this in mind, the Lightning simply shouldn’t pursue Simmonds. The cost would be too high, the move too risky and his playing time too sparse to make it all worthwhile. So, even if it is a fun idea to discuss as we approach the trade deadline, don’t expect the move to ever actually happen.