NHL NEWS: FLYERS EXTEND SIMMONDS FOR 6-YEARS, $24M


The Philadelphia Flyers have announced that right-winger Wayne Simmonds has signed a 6-year contract extension to stay with the Broad Street Bullies.  It is believed to be for around $4m per season.

This is an interesting signing, and whilst I don’t know the player too well, it seems like a slight overpay to me – but only slightly.  This was something of a breakout season for Simmonds, his first with the Flyers having played the previous 3 for the LA Kings after making the jump straight from Junior Hockey to the NHL.  He leapt from 14 goals to 28, and from 30 points to 49 – although he did reach 40 points previously in 09-10.  The problem for me is, as it is with all young, developing players, is he really a $4m per season player, or was this a freak season, a fluke, an outlier.

HOW DID HE DO IT?

I can’t comment for sure, but there are various reasons that we can see for the jump in production.

  • Shooting percentage.  His career average after this season is 11.8%, but this season he scored on 14.21% of his shots, well above his own average and well above league average.  If he’d scored on 10.55% of his shots (his NHL career average prior to this season), he would have scored 20-21 goals.  Still good, even very good, production but implies that he did have some luck in scoring so many goals.  Having now played 4 seasons in the league, we can see that Simmonds is around an 11-12% shooter, and should not expect him to continue scoring at a 14%+ rate.  If he does, great, but don’t expect it – these things usually revert to the mean.
  • The other thing that jumped is the number of shots he took this year.  Simmonds had average 123 shots over his first three seasons in LA, but jumped to 197 this year with the Flyers.  This is most likely due to the jump in playing time per game, from 13:27 per game in 10-11 to 15:54 per game in 11-12.  More playing time will generally equal more shots, more shots will generally equal more goals especially when combined with a higher-than-normal shooting %.  It remains to be seen as to whether he will continue getting increased ice time, and whether he can keep up the significant increase in shot totals, or revert to near his career average.
  • Powerplay time.  Simmonds’ powerplay time skyrocketed from 67 minutes over his last season in LA, to 264 minutes for the season with the Flyers.  That is a massive jump, and hey, give a guy powerplay time and of course it provides more opportunity to score.  To put that in perspective, in his final year in LA Simmonds was 17th on the Kings in PP Time On Ice Per Game at 50 seconds per game, whilst this year he was 6th on a loaded Flyers team with 3:13 per game.  Seeing as this is the first year in the NHL that Simmonds has had a significant amount of time on a powerplay unit, time will tell as to whether he’s a legitimate PP talent (he scored 11 goals at 5×4 this year) or a flash in the pan (he had 3 PP goals his entire NHL career prior to the 11-12 season).
  • Coupled with the PP time, will Simmonds be guaranteed the same amount of time on the ice at both even strength and on the PP?  The Flyers will likely want to start seeing what Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn can do with increased time and responsibility – will that come at the expense of someone like Simmonds?  Of course, Jagr and Van Riemsdyk leaving will certainly free up some minutes, but as I keep saying, this was Simmonds first kick-at-the-can in terms of bigger opportunity – and don’t get me wrong, he did brilliantly well – but $4m per season is a lot for a guy with one really good season under his belt.

    Flyers 11-12 Player Usage Chart

    Player Usage Chart – Courtesy Robert Vollman

  • Vollman’s Player Usage Charts, whilst not the absolute perfect way of showing how effective a player is, they probably do give us the best overall idea.  For the Flyers, we can see that Simmonds received the biggest zone start push of any player not named Jagr or Van Riemsdyk.  Inevitably this provides more offensive opportunity, as he started around 58% of his shifts in the offensive zone.  We can also see that he was not facing particularly tough competition, again meaning greater opportunity to score on not-so-good players.  However, it is interesting to see that despite his offensive success, he was not doing particularly well in terms of moving the play in the right direction (shown by the medium-sized white circle).  This perhaps suggests again that he had a fair bit of luck in capitalizing on his chances – I would say that a player earning $4m per year should be able to dominate if he is receiving easy zonestarts and facing soft competition.

IN SUMMARY

So, bad things we know about Simmonds are that he was somewhat lucky in scoring as much as he did this season and as such is primed (perhaps) for a slight regression, he never plays on the PK (well, OK, he played 3:13 – the entire season!!!) so isn’t valuable as a defensive player if the offense fails, and that he can’t seem to dominate easy ice time (although I haven’t looked at his time in LA to see if this year was just a fluke in that regard – the bigger the sample size, the more obvious the answer).

The good things we know about Simmonds are that even if he does regress slightly, and gets some ice time taken away, he is still capable of putting up 2nd-3rd-Line production of around 15-20 goals and 30-40 points.  Those guys do have value – not everyone can be a 30-goal, 70-point guy.  He gives the Flyers good depth in the forward ranks.  He’s very physical, averaging around 130 hits per season and around 100 PIMs – not that being physical makes you a good player (contrary to what some think), but it can be useful.  I would say that, all things told, he should be earning around $3m per season, at most.  I just haven’t seen enough yet that makes me want to give up that kind of money.

On the whole, I would say I quite like the player but not the contract.  Whilst not an albatross, 6-years is a long time to be paying someone who may-or-may-not carry on that amount of production.

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