In a very celebratory Flyers locker room, the emotions started to feel sentimental.
After scoring the game-winner in the Flyers' comeback, 4-3 overtime victory over the Penguins on Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field (see observations), Claude Giroux passed his player of the game helmet to Jakub Voracek, who scored the game-tying goal with 20 seconds remaining. Voracek handed it over to Wayne Simmonds.
And from there, it sat in Simmonds' stall, as more of a lifetime achievement award.
It may be the final time Simmonds wears that helmet or a Flyers sweater with this collection of teammates — guys like Voracek and Giroux he’s been with for the past eight years.
“He’s one of my best friends, so it’s kind of stressful for me, as well,” Voracek said. “There are some things you can not change in the locker room and he knows it. He’s been a warrior.”
It’s widely believed the "Wayne Train" made one final stop here in Philadelphia before he’s off to his next destination, and there’s a sense that the Nashville Predators, with former Flyers coach Peter Laviolette, are now the front-runner to land Simmonds by Monday’s deadline.
“It quite possibly could [have been my last game with the Flyers],” Simmonds said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen. Obviously I’d like to stay here, but it’s out of my hands now.”
Simmonds knows, to some degree, and he’s likely known for quite some time. His agent Eustace King and Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher haven’t made any significant progress toward a long-term extension, and Simmonds is a coveted asset with teams looking to add an element of toughness as they approach the postseason.
If this is the way it goes down, Simmonds couldn’t have scripted it much better as the Flyers scored twice in the final 3:04 of regulation to tie the game before Giroux’s overtime winner.
“You savor it a little more,” Simmonds said. “This has been my home. I’ve lived in Toronto in the offseason and Philadelphia. I can truly say I’ve given everything I’ve had to Philadelphia the last eight years.”
After the game, Giroux was asked about whether he had a last-ditch conversation with Fletcher to keep Simmonds in Philly, but ultimately the business side of these matters takes precedence.
“You want the full conversation?” Giroux half-heartedly joked. “I don’t like to comment on it right now, because we don’t know what’s going to happen. It doesn’t mean we have to like it. Wayne’s been the best teammate and it’s just frustrating to think about right now.”
Simmonds can handle the transition. He was traded cross-country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia at the age of 22, but his wife Crystal has never quite experienced this type of stress, and to compound matters, she’s six and a half months pregnant with their first child.
“We've got to figure out what we’ll be doing for the back half of the season and where we’ll deliver our baby," Simmonds said. "It’s been more than just hockey that’s running through my mind.
“But I’m happy. I’m happy for what I’ve done in this city and I can truly say that.”
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