The Stars stood pat last year, choosing not to risk their young assets like Jason Dickinson and a first-round draft pick (particularly with the draft in Dallas last summer) on a rental. They ended up missing the playoffs by a couple points, and I leave it to you to decide whether that ended up being the right choice or not.
Two years ago, the Stars were quite bad, and therefore sellers. Pending UFAs Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky unfortunately got hurt, preventing their sales, but Jim Nill did manage to sell off Jordie Benn, Patrick Eaves, Lauri Korpikoski and Johnny Oduya.
The year before that saw a Dan Hamhuis trade fizzle into the Russell acquisition, and 2014-15 saw Jhonas Enroth fail to save the day the year after another goalie deal at the 2013-14 deadline in the form of Tim Thomas.
It could be argued that the team hasn’t really traded for a top-half-of-the-lineup player at the deadline since the Brad Richards deal in 2008, which worked out pretty nicely.
Back here in 2019, the Stars are hoping to be buyers again, though without the same cushion in the standings as they had 11 years ago. Still, the need is very clearly in the same place as it was then, which is to say in the top six forward group. Dallas needs to score more goals, and they need players who can be relied upon to do so consistently, which unfortunately dampens the hopes of all of those long-standing Alex Chiasson fans out there.
There are lots of trade possibilities out there, but today, we’re going to look at one of the players most likely to be dealt: Wayne Simmonds.
Philadelphia is on an 8-1-1 run, which has vaulted them all the way to...eight points out of the playoffs, still. Suffice it to say, the Flyers aren’t going to be buyers unless Carter Hart channels Dominik Hasek, Ed Belfour and Patrick Roy at the same time for the next ten games. This team should sell, even if it thinks it has a chance, because it really doesn’t.
Wayne Simmonds is a pending UFA, so we all know what that means. And despite some saying that Simmonds is the heart and soul of the Flyers, Chuck Fletcher is probably not anxious to begin his Philadelphia tenure by re-upping a declining power forward on the wrong side of 30. He’ll say all the right things about it being a tough decision and all, but we all know how the NHL works now. You have to get value when you can, because those windows don’t open themselves.
Simmonds is one of the most widely discussed players at this deadline, but how valuable is he, really? Without being too dogmatic, I’ll put it this way: not very.
Simmonds is scoring 0.43 points per game this year, which is 0.01 more points per game than the oft-maligned (though not always justly) Jason Spezza. However, it gets even worse when you drill down. Simmonds is getting much more playing time per game than Spezza, which is why Simmonds is only scoring a 12th-best (on the Flyers!) total of 1.07 points per 60 minutes at 5v5. Spezza, in contrast, is at 1.22 points per 60, which is around 7th or 8th on the Stars, depending on whether you count players like Connor Carrick and Gemel Smith’s small sample sizes. In other words, Simmonds is getting top-six ice time at 5v5, but scoring like a bottom-sixer, which is in line with his declining scoring trend over the past couple of years. Not bad, sure; but it hardly seems like the solution for a team at the bottom of the league in scoring, especially when you consider the price the Stars would have to pay.
However, Simmonds is supposed to be a power play weapon, right? We all know the Stars love to chase after some good old net-front beef on the power play, so maybe Simmonds could be that piece. Power play weapons are still weapons, after all, and the Stars’ power play has had its issues for some stretches this season.
The news doesn’t get much better on the man-advantage, unfortunately. Despite being a first-unit power play guy, Simmonds is 9th on the Flyers in points per 60 at 5v4. The only gleam of sunshine in there is that he’s 3rd in goals along with that, but all that means is that he’s put up about one power play goal per 10 games this season on the job. So, once again, you’re talking about something, but it’s hard to see how that something is worth the price you’d have to pay to acquire it.
Oh, and just to throw it in there: Simmonds has also been far from a force in the playoffs in recent history, as he’s put up a line of zero goals and four assists in the Flyers’ last two first-round exits. It’s one thing to have a reputation precede you, but any talk of Simmonds as a clutch player is clutching at straws, not recent history.
Simmonds was a great power forward from ages 23-27, and in this league, a few years of great play will keep your boat floating for a bit. Simmonds is now 30, and he’s scoring like Jason Spezza is scoring at 35, on this Dallas Stars team. If you think Simmonds is going to be a great fit in this offensive scheme, then maybe you hope for the best and plug him into the Brett Ritchie spot. That would be an upgrade, and that’s all well and good if there weren’t any cost to acquire such a player. But given where the Stars are as a team this year and a franchise overall, it’s hard to see how Simmonds would be worth anything close to what deadline prices will probably dictate.
Maybe Simmonds could have been enough to get the Stars a couple of extra goals down the stretch last year and changed their fortunes. Maybe not. But this year, the Stars would be throwing good money after bad if they tried to get another declining Martin Hanzal for two months instead of going after the sort of player they’ve been needing for over two years now.
In summary, Simmonds doesn’t drive play by himself, his reputation makes his price higher than his current ability warrants, and he’s not finishing chances like he used to. On a team looking to get younger and faster and more skilled, trading for Simmonds would be like putting a spoiler on a car that needs new tires. Downforce is only a concern when you can get going in the first place.