The Toronto Maple Leafs do not need to sign Wayne Simmonds.
In fact, signing Wayne Simmonds is an objectively terrible idea, and the Toronto Maple Leafs should have zero interest in signing the aging winger.
In classic NHL fashion, players who hit and fight get overrated. That’s no surprise, but given the Leafs general lack of this type of player, fans and the media are working overtime to make it happen.
It isn’t happening.
Toronto Maple Leafs and Wayne Simmonds
Everyone likes an easy narrative, but they are hardly ever true. Kyle Dubas doesn’t eschew grit in hockey players, nor is he against size. Yes, the Leafs tend to draft smaller players, but there is a reason for that.
In the NHL, historically, teams massively underrate players who are small, and tend to over-draft players who are big. That is why Nikita Kucherov was a second rounder, and why Braydon Point a third rounder and why Johnny Gaudreau was a fourth rounder. Too small.
So what happens is that smaller, more talented players tend to be available lower than they should be, creating a market inefficiency. The Leafs don’t specifically want a team full of small players, they just know their odds of finding a late-round gem go up drastically if they draft them.
But look at the roster moves Kyle Dubas has actually made. The first trade of his career was to acquire Zach Hyman. He traded for both Jake Muzzin and Kyle Clifford. He’d probably like more guys like that, but players who are both tough and effective are few and far between. Or they make way too much money.
Further complicated the calculus here, is the fact that in the NHL, the difference in contribution between non-elite players and replacement players is so small that it doesn’t make sense to pay your role players more than the league minimum.
Of course, if you exclusively follow this rule, you’ll never be able to get anyone you want, but the guiding principle should be to avoid larger mid-range contracts. And, if you look at the Leafs, they don’t have a single long-term contract that is an overpayment.
All of their mid-range deals – Holl, Engvall, Johnsson – are low enough that the players can easily be moved. This realization is what allows the Leafs to concentrate so much of their cap money to so few players. It is also why nearly every analyst gets the Leafs cap situation wrong.
And it is also why the Leafs won’t be bringing in Wayne Simmonds. He may have been a good hockey player back when he was 28, but now he is 32 and, I’m sorry to say, not an NHL player on a team looking to win the Stanley Cup.
For the last three years, Simmonds has been worse than any random AHL player you could replace him with. He provides: no offense, no defense, no special teams advantage. Might as well see if Colton Orr is available, if we’re being honest.
Simmonds is a bad option for the Leafs. In fact, by not signing him, the Leafs will win because one of their rivals will, and comparatively the Leafs will get better. It’s a sad fact of life that players who play like Simmonds did in his prime age poorly.
If Simmonds will take a league minimum salary and agree to try and make the team out of training camp, he might be worth a flier. Kyle Clifford is significantly better, however. The Leafs should not have any interest in this player. I would go so far as to say that the suggestion of signing him is based entirely on emotion and fantasy, while completely ignoring objective analysis.