VOORHEES – They knew this day was coming but it didn’t make it any easier.
When the Flyers practiced on Monday morning, teammate Wayne Simmonds wasn’t on the ice.
Instead, he was speaking with general manager Chuck Fletcher and learning there was a good chance he was going to be moved.
Hours later, speculation became reality.
Simmonds, an eight-year veteran and one of the true heart-and-soul players in team history, had been moved to the Nashville Predators in exchange for winger Ryan Hartman and a conditional 2020 draft pick.
To a man, the Flyers spoke with admiration about one of the most popular and impactful players in the team locker room.
“He’s one of our leaders,’’ Radko Gudas said after the practice before Simmonds was gone. “He’s a guy that everybody wants to be. Everybody knows where he is all the time. It’s going to be really hard if anything happens, if he’s not here tomorrow. Somebody’s going to have to step up and fill up the role. We just have to adjust.’’
James van Riemsdyk said Simmonds fit the profile of a protypical Flyer.
“I think basically, the way he plays, he was born to play for the Flyers,’’ van Riemsdayk said. “So with his brand of hockey and his style, obviously he’s been here now, what, eight years or so? He’s worn the jersey very proudly, very well.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen here but certainly he’s had that (his career) to hang his hat on. Again, he’s left it all out there. He’s been a great Flyer.’’
Coach Scott Gordon is the one who might miss Simmonds most of all.
“I said it after the (Pittsburgh) game: He makes everyone in the locker room a lot braver,’’ Gordon said.
“He’s got everybody’s back. He’s a guy who can do that but at the same time make contributions offensively. Great presence in the room, great presence on the bench. Those guys are hard to find. Even though there’s not as much physicality in the game because of the speed, he brings that every night, when it’s needed. He’s the first guy to do it.
“I’ve seen the impact it’s had on the other team. Guys might be a little bit tougher. The presence of Wayne out there, it definitely has an impact.’’