Rumors were circulating throughout the floor of the American Airlines Center Friday night of a potential deal involving Wayne Simmonds for Calgary defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Who knows how deep those discussions evolved, but the possibility of a straight-up swap simply didn’t make much sense.
The Flyers would have jumped at the chance of acquiring a 25-year-old right-handed 6-foot-6 defenseman who can skate like the wind while possessing an impressive offensive skill set coming off a career-high 17 goals last season. Hamilton’s durability includes missing just one game in his three seasons in Calgary and he’s under club control at a reasonable $5.75 million cap hit over the next three years.
Which is why a deal wasn’t brokered.
The Flames simply needed more from the Flyers, and general manager Ron Hextall isn’t willing to part with the prospects that prospective teams continuously keep asking about whether it’s Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers or whomever. Once again, Hextall admitted as much after speaking with the media Sunday following the draft.
“Again, would we like to add a big piece? Yeah, we would absolutely, but we’re not trading one of our top prospects for a guy that’s going to play for us for a year or two," Hextall said. "You look back in two years and you go, 'What was I thinking?'”
There’s a certain irony in that hypothetical, but Hextall can only cross his fingers and hope that a prospect like Sanheim eventually develops into a player like Hamilton, who interestingly was selected right after Sean Couturier in the 2011 draft.
In fact, the guy sitting just to the right of Hextall at the Flyers' draft table likely would not have left Dallas without adding a player like Hamilton, but team president Paul Holmgren is now four years removed from making those decisions.
As it turned out, the Flames dealt Hamilton to Carolina the next day along with forward Micheal Ferland for 21-year-old defenseman Noah Hanifan, promising forward Elias Lindholm and defensive prospect Adam Fox.
Regardless, the type of player the organization covets was available at a certain price — just not one the Flyers' GM is willing to meet.
Which brings us back to Simmonds.
July sets up to be an interesting month in the future of the Flyers' power forward.
For one, he’s eligible to sign an extension, and just a few weeks ago Hextall briefly mentioned preliminary discussions with Simmonds' agent in the near future. The framework for a deal will give the Flyers an idea of how closely the two sides are. Keep in mind, Claude Giroux (Holmgren signing) and Jakub Voracek (Hextall signing) were both locked up long term in July heading into their respective contract years. Same could happen with Simmonds.
But if the two sides are far apart, rest assured there will be teams very interested in adding a 30-goal scorer. Right now, they’re simply waiting out the John Tavares saga before proceeding with Plan B. One team will walk away happy while others will be left scrambling.
Aside from Tavares, James van Riemsdyk is the only other potential UFA who scored 30 goals this past season, and while a myriad of injuries prevented Simmonds from reaching the 30-goal mark for the third time in his career, Simmonds appears poised to bounce back in a big way in 2018-19.
Hextall wants to be active during free agency, but to what extent is still undetermined. Keep in mind not only have the Flyers historically completed some deals with the start of free agency, they’ve also been prone to making a few trades as well.
There’s Daymond Langkow to Phoenix in 2001, Joni Pitkanen to Edmonton in 2007, Denis Gauthier to L.A. in 2008, Kris Versteeg to Florida in 2011 and Tye McGinn to San Jose in 2014. All trades completed within the first few days of July.
However, Simmonds brings value beyond numbers. He’s a tremendous locker room leader, a strong presence with the organization’s younger players and will never back down standing up for anyone who wears the same sweater as he does.
The following days or weeks may determine just how much those intangibles are worth.