It seemed like when the Nashville Predators acquired Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils that they’d addressed the netfront presence on their power play with that move and were content with the bottom-six forward group.
That proved not to be the case, with their acquisition today of Wayne Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Ryan Hartman and a fourth- or third-round pick in next year’s draft (if the Predators win at least one round this postseason, the pick becomes a third-round pick). Both players’ contracts expire this summer; Hartman, who is 24, will be a RFA this summer, while Simmonds, who is 30, will be a UFA this summer.
It’s important to note that Wayne Simmonds is not the same Wayne Simmonds who last played for Peter Laviolette. Simmonds’s production has been declining steadily since 2015-16. He plays a physical style of hockey, putting himself in highly-contested areas of the ice, and aging is not gentle to those players. This season Simmonds has struggled to help control play at 5v5, though he’s still been effective on the power play:
Wayne Simmonds (to Nashville) is great at special teams, weak at 5v5, with a not-great penalty differential. pic.twitter.com/BTwKI8LJiF— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) February 25, 2019
He has sixteen goals and eleven assists, for 27 points through 62 games. Ryan Hartman had scored rather less (10G/10A) in several full minutes less per game.
Ultimately, this trade feels like Ryan Hartman was on his way out regardless—for whatever reason Laviolette didn’t seem to think highly of playing him, and there’s no point in keeping a player who your coach won’t use, regardless of how good or bad that player is.
Simmonds is having a pretty on-brand year for himself—I’ve compared his transition play this year to his transition play over the last three years—and he’s fine in that respect.
Hartman is better in transition, but Hartman also wasn’t getting ice time or skilled linemates, so I don’t know how much it matters.
Simmonds does shoot from the front of the net at both 5v5 and 5v4; it can only be hoped that he’ll continue going to those areas for the Predators.