The fire sale in New Jersey continued at the deadline, as Tom Fitzgerald and the Devils traded rental forward Wayne Simmonds to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for a conditional 5th round pick. The Devils will retain 50% of Simmonds’ salary, and the 5th round pick will become a 4th if Simmonds plays in ten of Buffalo’s remaining regular-season games and if Buffalo qualifies for the 2020 playoffs.
The Devils had no intention of keeping Simmonds after the disaster of a season they’ve had on the ice, so trading him for a shot at the playoffs and his first Stanley Cup was a good organizational move by Tom Fitzgerald and his group. We aren’t sure how Buffalo was the “contending” team that made sense for Simmonds in this deal, but the Devils got an asset out of it, which works in their favor. Simmonds waived his no-trade clause to come to Buffalo for geographical reasons and felt that the team was close enough standings wise to play meaningful hockey in the final weeks remaining in the season.
In the 11 years of data we have on Wayne Simmonds, he has a career AB score of -0.96. However, Simmonds has registered negative AB seasons in six of his last seven years. His penalty taken/drawn ratio is 15:9, and his giveaway/takeaway ratio is an impressive 17:24. He was tied for 2nd on the Devils with a -17 +/- number trailing only Jack Hughes. Simmonds had 8 goals and 16 assists for 24 points in 61 games with the Devils this season. At 31-years old, Simmonds makes $5 million for the remainder of this season, with again, the Devils retaining 50% of that cap hit in this trade. Under the two Devils coaches this season, Simmonds is averaging almost a minute less per game of ice time. We expect his ice time to increase in Buffalo, as he is on the 2nd line centered by Marcus Johansson, and with Jeff Skinner on his opposite wing.
The Devils currently have a 25-27-10 record, good for 60 points in 62 games, and are 7-3 in their last 10. According to Tankathon.com, the Devils’ own draft pick has the 6th best odds to land the #1 overall selection for what would be a 3rd time in 4 seasons, and Arizona’s pick has the 10th best. Despite the disappointing on-ice performance, interim (and hopefully full-time at some point) GM Tom Fitzgerald has done a wonderful job in cleaning up the mess left by the previous management group and will continue to do his best to build a competitive hockey team around Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier for many years to come in New Jersey. It will be interesting to see what else he plans to do to improve the Devils this offseason through free agency and the draft. More to come.