On the heels of the speculation that the Toronto Maple Leafs might have informed Kyle Clifford that they won’t be extending him to a new deal (likely so as not to have to give up a 2nd round pick versus a 3rd to Los Angeles), there’s news that perhaps Toronto might have their eyes on another option. Moreover, this other option might have his eyes on the Maple Leafs.
That player we’re referring to is forward Wayne Simmonds and he recently spoke with Pierre LeBrun of The Athletic (subscription required) and offered some insight as to what he’s thinking as he approaches unrestricted free agency this offseason in a flat salary-capped NHL.
Clifford Wants to Prove His Still Got Value
At one time, Wayne Simmonds was considered a quintessential power forward in the NHL. He could score, he could skate, he didn’t mind the physical stuff and he was useful on special teams.
His last few seasons haven’t exactly allowed him to hold that reputation as he’s floated around from NHL franchise to NHL franchise, making stops in Buffalo, New Jersey, Nashville and Philadelphia. He struggled in all cities since leaving Philly and he’ll be coming off a $5 million contract with the Sabres ($2.5 retained by the Devils), looking for the right fit to help him get back to his old ways.
At 32, he’s no longer a spring chicken. But, he believes he still has something left to offer. He told LeBrun:
“All I have in my mind is that I’m ready for this upcoming season whenever it does happen. I’m looking to make a huge impact wherever I go. Obviously I know I didn’t have the best of years last season. I’m looking to prove a lot of people wrong and show that I can still play at the level that people are accustomed to seeing me play at.’’
He’s Specifically Looking at the Maple Leafs
The Leafs don’t have a lot of money to spend on free agents. Moreover, where they should spend their money is on the blue line. But, that doesn’t mean the Leafs and Simmonds won’t likely talk.
And, if what Simmonds told LeBrun is any indication of how he feels about playing the with the Leafs next season, GM Kyle Dubas might get himself a team-friendly deal for a season.
Simmonds explained that he moved just north of Toronto and thanks to the pandemic has spent a lot of time in the city getting used to the surroundings. Saying many fans have asked him when he’s going to sign with the Leafs, and the idea of playing for Toronto has started to grow on him. He noted:
“So of course it’s crossed my mind. I know they’re in a bit of a salary cap situation and things of that nature, but you know I’m open to everything, Toronto’s got a great core of players and I think that’s definitely a team where I could go in and make an impact right away. It’s up to the teams. Whoever wants to choose me, I’ll be waiting. I’ll definitely be ready to go.’’
Someone Is Going to Get a Good Deal
Whether it’s the Maple Leafs or someone else, it sounds like Simmonds is ready to sign a “show me” contract this offseason. That could be a good thing for a team that has some strong pieces that could help him elevate his game.
This is potentially excellent opportunity for Toronto. It will be interesting to see if we start hearing these two sides connected in talks come October.
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