General manager Ray Shero is one stealthy human being. In what was the team’s only NHL deal of the day, the New Jersey Devils came to terms with forward Wayne Simmonds. The agreed upon deal is only for one year at a value of $5 million. At first, it seemed as if many Devils’ fans were experiencing mixed emotions. However, now that the dust has settled – for the most part – let’s take a deeper dive into what the Devils are actually getting in Simmonds.
The 30-year-old right winger – soon to be 31 – is entering his 12th season in the NHL. This tough, grinder-like forward brings an edge to the team that fans have rarely seen over the past few seasons. His 93 penalty minutes and 142 hits averaged over the past three seasons are the highest among any Devil over that same period. His physical style of play is also apparent on the power play. He is spectacular at using his 6-foot-2 frame to screen opposing goalies and has great hands in and around the net. In six of the previous eight seasons, Simmonds has tallied double-digit power play goals.
In terms of traditional statistics, he has fared well over his career. He’s a two-time 30-goal scorer and has hit 24 or more goals six of the past eight seasons. Another statistical category where he has excelled in is getting pucks on net as he’s averaged 197 shots on goal per year.
For all those analytical minds out there, seeing Simmonds sign for $5 million may have irked you. Above is a chart that shows his impact on certain offensive and defensive success indicators. As you can see, it’s not pretty. The right side of the chart – power play underlying statistics – are very impressive which makes sense via the success referenced above.
Further investigation into Simmonds’ WAR/GAR shows an interesting trend. Up until the previous two seasons, he had relatively solid numbers. Whether it be age, or the fact trade rumors surrounded him each of the past two seasons, his play has suffered.
Another chart that demonstrates these recent struggles are below. The left-side shows Simmonds’ 2016-17 transition numbers and the right-side shows his past two seasons. On the left side, he was in the higher percentile of the league in several important categories, but not so much on the right side.
Unfortunately for Simmonds, it seems as if his top-six forward days are wearing thin. It’ll be interesting to see how head coach John Hynes utilizes him. A third-line checking role with ample time on the power play seems to be where he is at in his career now. And if this is the case, it arises the need for Shero to make one more move in addressing the hole that still exists in the top six.
In regard to the deal itself, it seemed to surprise many when the Devils announced this move via their Twitter account. Credit this to the fact Shero does such a great job of keeping all his business under wraps.
All-in-all it seems like a classic low-risk, high-reward scenario. Even with the $5 million dished out to Simmonds, the Devils still have a shade over $20,000,000 in cap space. This one-year deal is almost like a “prove-it” deal as not only does Simmonds have the opportunity to prove he still has top-six talent, it also allows the Devils to reap those benefits. However, the worst case scenario is he serves as that bottom-six checking forward who provides a massive boost to the Devils’ power play which needed it desperately. Overall, once again it seems like a job well done by Shero.