Flyers

Wayne Simmonds: 'The youth can spark' Flyers' veterans

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Wayne Simmonds: 'The youth can spark' Flyers' veterans

TORONTO — Heading into his seventh season with the Flyers, and 10th overall, Wayne Simmonds is looking forward to building off a second consecutive 30-plus-goal season while helping lead a young group back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With everyone from second overall pick Nolan Patrick to blueliners Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Phil Myers and Travis Sanheim all vying for roster spots, Simmonds, 28, is seeing the game change before his eyes.

“I think I’m kind of getting up there. This year is my 10th year, right? So I see some names, I’m not just saying on our team alone, but in the whole league, game is changing a little bit,” Simmonds said Wednesday at the annual BioSteel Camp in Toronto. “All I can do is lead by example. I’m going to go in there and play the game the way I play and hopefully those guys will follow.”

Following the 2016-17 season, which saw the Flyers go 39-33-10 while finishing 11th in the Eastern Conference, Simmonds represented Canada at the IIHF World Championships, registering two assists in 10 games while helping the Canadians win a silver medal.

Prior to getting into his offseason workout program, Simmonds and his fiancee Crystal Corey took a much-needed vacation.

“I got a chance to go to Jamaica with my fiancee, so we did that at the beginning of the summer after we came back from world championship,” Simmonds said. “We just went to Montego Bay, kept it close, we didn’t want to drive too far from the airport.

“Saw a lot of the island, took a drive to Negril, spent a day in Negril, which was actually beautiful white sand beaches and great restaurants and stuff like that, so it was pretty cool.”

The summer also saw Simmonds lose a few close teammates as the Flyers parted ways with goaltender Steve Mason and forward Brayden Schenn, among others.

“Very sad to see him go, I have a really good relationship with Steve,” Simmonds said. “We played together for a long time going all the way back to world juniors, winning a gold medal with him, so it’s sad to see him go, but it’s just part of the business. Guys change teams here and there and you’ve just got to accept it.”

Despite not playing with Brian Elliott, who was brought in to replace Mason, Simmonds already has a relationship with the goaltender, who spent last season in Calgary.

“I got a chance to talk to [Elliott] a little bit through text,” Simmonds said. “I actually know him and his wife a little bit. His wife is actually the godmother of one of my best friend’s kids, so we’ve got a connection there.”

Simmonds also sees Schenn’s departure as an opening for second-year forward Travis Konecny.

“I think that’s going to give T.K. an unbelievable opportunity,” Simmonds said. “The way he plays the game, the way he thinks the game, the speed he plays it at and the confidence level he was building towards last year — you could see it at the end of last year and at the world championship when he kind of broke out.

“He played unbelievable. He’s probably top three or four in our team in scoring — he’s a great player and I think the more ice time you give him, the better he’s going to get.”

The Flyers saw an eight-point drop-off last season compared to 2015-16, when they made the playoffs, and with an influx of young players expected, expectations aren’t high. The Hockey News predicted the Flyers to once again finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division in its annual yearbook issue. Despite the outlook, Simmonds believes there’s room for his club to build off last season.

“This year we’re going to have a lot of young defensemen coming in and I think it’s going to make our team better,” he said. “With a good mix of youth and veterans, I think the youth can spark the veterans a little bit and the veterans will help bring the younger guys [along].”

The Flyers head into the 2017-18 season looking to avoid missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since going five straight seasons without playoff hockey from 1990-94.

The weight of trying to qualify for the playoffs in a tough Metropolitan Division is no added pressure on the leadership group, according to Simmonds. 

“Go out there, play my game and lead the way I lead,” he said. “There’s no pressure for us. We’ve got to go in there and just play hockey. We didn’t fulfill what we wanted to do last year, so it’s up to us, I think, as leaders of the group to lead the way for the young guys and have everyone pulling the rope in the same direction.”

Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

Will Flyers re-sign Justin Braun, Derek Grant when NHL free agency rolls around?

July 1 came and went rather quietly in the hockey world. Annually, the day is filled with players signing new contracts and joining new teams as the free agency period officially opens.

This year, that was obviously not the case. As the NHL and NHLPA continue to work toward a resumption and eventual conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the entry draft and free agency must wait.

According to a report by TSN's Bob McKenzie, both sides are looking at Nov. 1 being the new July 1.

The offseason will be different and challenging considering the times. The salary cap floor, which typically climbs each year, is expected to remain flat at $81.5 million. In an excellent article published Wednesday, TSN's Frank Seravalli highlighted the key questions and challenges facing free agency, while outlining his top 50 pending unrestricted free agents.

On Seravalli's list were two current Flyers: Justin Braun at No. 19 and Derek Grant at No. 41. Will the Flyers re-sign them? With the league's return-to-play 24-team tournament still to be held, a lot can change from now until Nov. 1, but let's break down the Flyers' outlook for both of these players.

Braun

The case for Braun is interesting and the chances of the Flyers re-signing the experienced defenseman feel like 50-50. Braun, a stay-at-home blueliner who specializes in killing plays, helped stabilize the Flyers on the back end and improved their goal-prevention efforts (which were a major problem last season).

However, the Flyers will be cognizant of his age. Braun is 33 years old and made $3.8 million this season. At the current stage of his career, what will Braun be eyeing for his next deal? One would think he'd have to look for a cheaper price if he wants more years on his new contract, something that can be attractive to a veteran player eyeing job security.

The Flyers, though, have solid youth and depth at his position, along with a nice stable of blue-line prospects in the system. Understandably, for those reasons the Flyers might be wary of dedicating years to an older defenseman.

If Braun is willing to be pretty flexible in his terms, the Flyers shouldn't be opposed to bringing him back. He has made them better in 2019-20. But if push comes to shove a bit, especially in a tighter offseason, the Flyers may have to say thank you and move forward with their youngsters or another option.

Grant

The initial impression of the Grant trade deadline acquisition was good rental for cheap.

What made Grant such a cost-effective move by general manager Chuck Fletcher? Grant, 29 years old at the time, could help the playoff-hungry Flyers down the stretch with only a $700,000 cap hit and no years left on his contract.

Grant made such a positive impact in his seven-game regular-season audition with the Flyers that they'll absolutely consider re-signing him. The 6-foot-3, 206-pound center also delivered a timely career year of 15 goals and 25 points between his time with the Ducks and Flyers, setting himself up for a nice pay increase.

Grant should be appealing to bring back for the Flyers because he can play down the middle and on the wing; his ability to move around makes him less likely to block a Flyers prospect at a specific position. If Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder) is healthy in 2020-21 and the Flyers are deeper at center, Grant can help on the wing. If Patrick's situation remains uncertain and the Flyers lack depth, Grant can bolster things by playing his natural position.

The 24-team tournament could really factor into the Grant equation. If the 30-year-old has an influential tourney and the Flyers go on a run, he could win over the club. He's a quality bottom-six guy who won't require a hefty contract that severely handcuffs the Flyers next season or down the line.

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Flyers Talk podcast: NHL hub cities, free agency, more

Flyers Talk podcast: NHL hub cities, free agency, more

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall analyze the team's decisions for free agency and the playoffs.

From roster talk to the latest on the 24-team tournament, let's dive in:

0:45 — The latest on where the Flyers might play

4:15 — July is much different this time around

7:00 — Will the Flyers re-sign Derek Grant and Justin Braun?

21:20 — Keep an eye on Morgan Frost

26:00 — What to expect from Nate Thompson

30:15 — Appreciating Sean Couturier's faceoff excellence

36:35 — Katie's birthday is Monday, July 6!

Subscribe and rate Flyers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers