The Pittsburgh Penguins cleared just over $3 million of salary cap space Saturday night by dealing defenseman Olli Maatta to Chicago for versatile rookie forward Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick. The move upped the Penguins available salary cap space to approximately $6.375 million and will afford them at least some ability to add new blood via the free agent market. And information from a league source to Pittsburgh Hockey Now makes more sense.
Beginning June 23 at 12:01 a.m. teams can begin to speak with free agents. As the Penguins prepare their priorities and debate their course of action, you may be interested to know one name which is being linked to the team.
Scuttle from a league source is the Pittsburgh Penguins could enter the fray for free agent winger Wayne Simmonds. Unprompted, Saturday second-hand sources tied the long-time Philadelphia Flyer winger and the Penguins. The source posited the Penguins want more snarl among their forward crew and there is belief Simmonds will get a call from the team.
Simmonds, 30, suffered a steep drop in production over the past two seasons. Beset by lower and upper body injuries, Simmonds was a shell of himself in the Flyers-Penguins Round One playoff battle in 2018. This season, Simmonds tallied only 30 points split between Philadelphia and Nashville. He set a full-season career low with 17 goals including just one marker with Nashville in 17 games.
He was again hindered by a lower body injury in Round One this season, too.
Simmonds was recently one of the premier power forwards in the NHL. He can be a force in front of the net, on the walls and one of the Philadelphia Flyers to which even Penguins fans gave begrudging respect for playing a hard, clean game (at least until he belted Brian Dumoulin with a high hit in the Stadium Series game on Feb. 23).
Simmonds completed a six-year, $23.85 million deal and will turn 31 before next season.
While the Penguins have added girth to their blue line with Jack Johnson and Erik Gudbranson, their wingers are generally lighter fare. Only Patric Hornqvist and Zach Aston-Reese are physical wingers. Saturday, they added the skilled Kahun who is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds.
For the uninitiated, “league sources” means the sources are neither with the Penguins or Simmonds camp but are colleagues to either of those parties. So, don’t buy a Simmonds jersey just yet but it is interesting to note that insiders are talking about the possibility. And given the Penguins desire to be harder to play against, a big body like Simmonds could be a quick improvement for the Penguins. Simmonds or a player like him would provide the Penguins with a third physical forward and balance to their top-nine, or one very large, thunderous third line.
Simmonds will likely receive a contract similar to his nearly $4 million annual value. He could seek a longer term for a higher guaranteed amount or a short term deal in a bet on himself to rebound to his typical 25-goal production level.