Philadelphia Flyers Power Forward Wayne Simmonds Is the NHL's Biggest Bargain

Adrian Dater@@adaterNHL National ColumnistDecember 15, 2016

Wayne Simmonds is "the total package" according to TV analyst Bill Clement
Wayne Simmonds is "the total package" according to TV analyst Bill ClementChristian Petersen/Getty Images

DENVER—Wayne Simmonds will earn $4.3 million in base salary for the 2016-17 NHL season, which, divided by 82, means he is making $52,439.24 per game with the Philadelphia Flyers. He is definitely a 1-percenter, a man making an enormous amount of money to play a game for a living. 

Yet, in comparison to what some others are making in the NHL and what they give their teams in return, compared to what he means to the Flyers, Simmonds is seriously underpaid. The 28-year-old right wing has established himself as arguably the best power forward in the NHL, a throwback type of player who could have just as easily played for the great "Broad Street Bullies" teams of the 1970s as he can in the current, warp-velocity NHL.

He is a leading man on a Flyers team that has won 10 in a row and vaulted from the lower third of the NHL standings three weeks ago to near the top.

"He is the complete deal, the complete package," said Bill Clement, the longtime television analyst who played for those Broad Street Bullies teams. "He has kind of a baker's cupboard of ingredients. He knows when to use the right ingredient, too, whether it be something physical, something skillful, whatever. That's the sign of a true leader type of player."

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03:  Jaroslav Halak #41 of the New York Islanders makes a save against Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers during their game at the Barclays Center on November 3, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images
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The Flyers currently are paying four other forwards more money than Simmonds, however. Two, Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, have cap hits more than double Simmonds' $3.98 million. In all, seven Flyers players are better-paid than him, according to Cap Friendly.

Because Simmonds' current contract is part of a six-year extension signed in 2012, he cannot renegotiate it again. He will continue to have a $3.98 million cap hit through the 2018-19 season, after which he would be an unrestricted free agent at age 31. That might make plenty of players surly and resentful, but Simmonds said he is happy with his contract. Sure, he knows he's worth more probably, but a deal's a deal, and Simmonds isn't whining about it.

"It's not something I think about," said Simmonds, a Flyers alternate captain. "I just think about trying to go out there and find different ways for my team to win every night."

Simmonds scored his 16th goal and 29th point in his 32nd game of the season Wednesday night in Philadelphia's 4-3 victory over Colorado, the Flyers' 10th consecutive win. He did something in the final minute of the game to help win it, too, something that won't show up on any analytics spreadsheet. 

With the Flyers pinned in their own end, with goaltender Calvin Pickard off the ice for an extra attacker for the Avalanche, Flyers defenseman Andrew MacDonald lost his stick. Teammate Pierre-Edouard Bellemare gave MacDonald his stick, then Simmonds gave Bellemare his own stick. But that still left the Flyers one man down and another without a stick, a virtual 6-on-4 for the Avs.

Simmonds, though, greatly made up for it with smart positioning of his long 6'2" frame, blocking passing lanes and getting in the way of attempted shots. The Flyers held on, barely, for the win. It's that kind of smart, unselfish hockey that Simmonds' teammates, along with coach Dave Hakstol, will tell you is an under-appreciated aspect of his game

"Simmer's game doesn't really change. He's playing the same type of game this year as he did last year," Hakstol said. "His effort, his preparation don't really change a lot. It speaks to how good of a pro he is."

When Simmonds signed a six-year, $23.9 million extension with Philadelphia in August 2012, there were some who wondered if the Flyers had overpaid. He'd only played one full season to that point with the Flyers, and the critics wondered if his 28-goal season of 2011-12 would prove a fluke. 

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 25:  Referees seperate Wayne Simmonds #17 of the Philadelphia Flyers during an argument in the third period against the Buffalo Sabres at Wells Fargo Center on October 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Michael R
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The answer has proven to be: No. Simmonds scored 32 goals last season, and 29 and 28 the two before that. With 16 goals in 32 games, he's on pace to set a career high. He hasn't sacrificed any of his power game in scoring more goals. He's as physical as ever around the net, one of the toughest in the league to move out of the way in close. He is one of the league's more feared fighters, even though he doesn't drop the gloves as much as he did coming up with the Los Angeles Kings, when he had to prove his toughness night after night in a league that had many more enforcers than it does today.

"I think maybe I've had a little more consistency, but that goes with our team as well," Simmonds said. "We've just played more consistent as a team, and that's translated down to a lot of guys on our team."

Simmonds' contract is structured so that his actual salary will increase the next two years to $4.75 million and $5 million. The first three years of the extension had him with base salaries of $2.8 million, $3.2 million and $3.8 million. It's still looking like a huge bargain for Flyers management, but Simmonds maintains he has no complaints.

"Trust me, I'm fortunate and thankful for everything this game has given me. [The contract] doesn't matter to me. I'm a happy guy," he said.

So are the Flyers and their fans. That much, you can take to the bank.

      

Adrian Dater covers the NHL for Bleacher Report.