Why Wayne Simmonds chose to return to the Maple Leafs over free agency

TORONTO – The Wayne Train sees no need to keep going from town to town.

Wayne Simmonds is on full steam as a cap-friendly Toronto Maple Leaf, by 2022-23. He happily takes another slice of pay and vows to keep blowing until the wheels fall off.

“I’m a person who… I will never give up. Either way, ”Simmonds said Tuesday, after the ink dried on a two-year, $ 1.8 million extension with his neighborhood club.

“This is my home. This is where I want to be. This is where I want to raise my family. This is where I want to win a Stanley Cup.

Simmonds is 32 years old and has two weeks of training for his 14th NHL campaign. He’s had enough bruises and surgeries, fights and disappointments to last 17 lifetimes.

He’s reached that point in the life of an adult where he no longer needs clichés as a crutch. This stage where stability and family outweigh financial gain. Where you don’t joke with happy.

So Simmonds’ cap will drop again from $ 1.5 million in 2020-21 to $ 900,000, giving general manager Kyle Dubas more experience and value on his fourth line (another veteran of the culture Jason Spezza scooped the minimum of $ 750,000 two weeks ago) – and a contract that could be easily buried in the miners if the determined Simmonds struggles to meet his own standards.

In return, Simmonds gets peace of mind, more time to rehabilitate the broken wrist he suffered in February and two cracks in an unfinished business while surrounded by a talented core.

This pitch was enough to quell any temptation Simmonds might have had to peek behind the curtain of free agencies on July 28. And talks between Dubas and the Simmonds camp began shortly after the elimination, when the player openly questioned whether the Leafs would even want to give him another one. shoot.

“I thought I could have done more to help the guys go further,” said Simmonds. “Just as I am, the person I am, I think negatively first. So I wasn’t really sure if the Leafs would want me to come back or whatever, because we didn’t reach. our objective.

The Toronto locker room, Simmonds said, is the most comfortable place he’s been in since his eight-year run and 30 goals in Philly.

And Dubas’ extra year of engagement means Simmonds doesn’t have to worry about packing his bags by the trade deadline, as he did in 2019 (from Philadelphia to Nashville) and 2020 (from New Jersey to Buffalo).

Knocking down also means portraying Scarborough in front of a Scotiabank arena, as the pandemic loosens its grip on Ontario.

“It will be amazing. I got a little taste of what it’s like to be a Toronto Maple Leaf, not all of it, ”Simmonds said at a Zoom talk as he drove his car home from the gymnasium.

“I have a two year old daughter. I would love nothing more than to see her sitting in the stands with her SIMMONDS jersey. And seeing my wife, family and friends get to watch games every week. “

Simmonds himself hasn’t taken any games lately. He caught a bit of Game 1 between the Montreal Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning, but made a point of stepping away from the ice after the Habs ousted the Leafs in Game 7.

“To be honest, I haven’t even watched hockey since we lost. This loss against Montreal stung a lot. I think it was one of the hardest losses of my life. And I think for me, reading how we failed and what we should have done differently, with everyone saying what they wanted to say about our players, I think it left me with a bitter taste in it. mouth and a huge sting, ”said Simmonds.

“I know we have a team that is good enough to go further than the first round, and it was extremely important for me to show the guys on the team that I’m in the game with them.

“I just wanted to be back on this team and prove that all of our opponents were wrong.”

At a price that shrinks the Maple Leafs’ middle class even further, but raises its class, Simmonds returns with Spezza’s Put me anywhere, coach! mentality.

“I don’t care where they see me. I’m here for the boys. I’m here to win, ”said Simmonds.

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He will drop the gloves, as he has done three times in a shortened season. He will drive in the net and score the second goal (seven goals in 38 games, not bad for a long distance player). It will be working all summer to provide energy, and it will call a collapse for what it is.

“Maybe we sat a little too far back. We didn’t kill when we smelled blood in the water, ”said Simmonds, thinking about how things might have ended here.

“I know every man on this team tastes bitter in their mouths, and they’re going to get ready.”

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