VOORHEES – Even though the Flyers have been on a fairly amazing run, capped off by Saturday night’s memorable come-from-behind victory over the Penguins, it wasn’t enough to sway general manager Chuck Fletcher’s mind.
For a brief while, he thought about not trading veteran right wing Wayne Simmonds – scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — because the Flyers were getting close to contending for a playoff spot.
But then the feeling passed and on Monday afternoon, just three minutes before the 3 p.m. trade deadline, Fletcher pulled the trigger on a deal which sent Simmonds to the Nashville Predators in exchange for 24-year-old Ryan Hartman and a 2020 conditional fourth-round draft pick, which can become a third if Nashville wins one round of the playoffs.
Would Fletcher have made the deal if the Flyers were seven points inside a playoff spot instead of seven points out?
“I guess it depends on where you are, but it’d be hard for me to speculate or guess on that,’’ Fletcher said at a 5:30 p.m. press conference at the Skate Zone.
“I think certainly that (where the Flyers are positioned in the standings) factors in, but the goal in this thing wasn’t just to get picks and prospects, the goal was to make sure we can get a player that we feel can help us, and we feel can be part of it going forward, and we were able to achieve that.
“So I’m not sure I can answer that completely. But I think getting a player like Ryan Hartman, getting a player that again, he can come in and help – that was important for us. I don’t know how many holes I want to have to fill this summer.’’
Hartman, has recorded 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points in 64 games with the Predators this season.
He was drafted 30th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013. The Hilton Head, S.C. native, listed as 6-foot-0, 180 pounds, is described as a player who plays with an edge.
From a team loyalty standpoint, it was a tough trade to make.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Wayne Simmonds – this guy, I’ve only been here since early December and I can just tell you my dealings with him were outstanding,’’ Fletcher said. “Through this process, he was outstanding. He’s a true Flyer, heart and soul guy. Cares, competes, just go back to the game on Saturday night and how hard he played, knowing that this could happen. And he left nothing. . .he left everything on the ice.
“So he’s done a great job for the Flyers for eight seasons, if not mistaken, and one of the premier power forwards in the game. I can’t say enough about Wayne. And with respect to Nashville, they’re getting a heck of a player. He’ll be a great playoff player for them. And I know Wayne – I won’t speak for him – but I know he’s very thankful for his time with the Flyers and also very excited for this opportunity to go to one of the top teams in the league.’’
No doubt, Simmonds will be missed.
Speaking less than an hour after the trade on TSN Network, Simmonds sounded emotional about leaving the team he had played for almost eight years.
“I was extremely on edge,’’ Simmonds said. “Obviously not knowing whether I would go or where I would be going. I went to the rink this morning (the Skate Zone) to practice and found out I wouldn’t be practicing.
“I kind of just sat around and waited. I got a chance to say goodbye to the boys for the last time. Those guys in there are my good friends. I’m sure I’ll see them down the road.’’
Simmonds will be reunited with former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette. That was something that had been rumored for a while.
Still, there were some anxious moments leading up to the deadline which had Simmonds understandably nervous.
Several other teams were said to be seeking Simmonds’ services. Ultimately, Nashville prevailed. How does he feel about the move?
“I feel great,’’ he said. “They have a great organization. I’ve heard nothing but he best about them. I know a couple guys there. They say everything there is unbelievable. Not to mention how good their team actually is.
“So, I’m just hoping to be another piece of the puzzle. Fit in there and hopefully win a championship. That’s obviously the main goal.’’
This is the second time Simmonds has been traded (he came from the Los Angeles Kings in 2011), but it’s something a player never finds normal.
“Just crazy,’’ he said. “Being a UFA (unrestricted free agent), I knew there was a possibility I could be traded at any point in the season. It’s crazy it came down to the last second. It’s sad, it’s exciting all at the same time. I’ve been in Philadelphia so long, I feel like I’ve been part of this community. But I’m excited (about Nashville), can’t wait to get started.’’
As mentioned, Fletcher had to struggle with this decision and only time will tell if it’s the right one.
“I was contemplating just keeping Wayne for the rest of the year, but ultimately when you get a chance again to get a 24-year-old player that can fit right in, has some upside and can still help our team now and for a few more years after this it just seemed to make sense.
“With the cap space we’ll have this summer, I think we’ll have plenty of opportunities to address the needs we feel we’ll need to address.’’
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