The “Wayne Train” is taking the tracks to Nashville.
Right winger Wayne Simmonds, who symbolized the heart and soul of the Flyers during his eight years with the team, was traded to the Nashville Predators on Monday for feisty right winger Ryan Hartman and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2020. The draft pick will become a third-rounder if Nashville wins one playoff round this season.
Hartman, 24, a former first-round draft pick by Chicago (30th overall) in 2013, had 10 goals, 20 points and a plus-7 rating in 64 games with the Predators this season. His best year was in 2016-17: 19 goals with the Blackhawks.
The 6-foot, 181-pounder is an agitator who is a pending restricted free agent. His cap hit is just $875,000 this season.
Hartman said he was surprised but excited by the deal, calling it a “fresh start” and saying he “always liked the way the team was built and how they played the game.”
General manager Chuck Fletcher, who considered other offers before making the deal three minutes before the trade deadline, said he could have acquired “multi-[draft] pick packages. But for the Philadelphia Flyers right now, to add a 24-year-old player who can step right in our lineup and play [made sense]. I think we’re getting a young player with upside who can fit into our room and plays a gritty game.”
“I play a hard style. I like to hit and get in the dirty areas,” said Hartman, a native of Hilton Head, S.C., who will probably be used in Simmonds’ spot on the third line Tuesday against Buffalo.
Simmonds ($3.98 million cap hit) can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. His agent, Eustace King, and Fletcher had contract talks but were unable to reach a deal on a contract extension.
Simmonds was not on the ice when the Flyers practiced in Voorhees on Monday morning. The NHL’s trade deadline was at 3 p.m. Eastern.
In Nashville, Simmonds will be reunited with coach Peter Laviolette, his former coach with the Flyers, and will have a chance to win a Stanley Cup.
Simmonds, who had a 12-team no-trade clause, has 16 goals this season, a team-worst minus-20 rating, and just one tally in his last 16 games. He is on pace for 21 goals.
The 30-year-old Simmonds was regarded as the team’s leader.
“Obviously he’s a big part of the team and has been here a long time,” left winger James van Riemsdyk said. “That’s the funny thing about sports, particularly a sport like hockey. People always want to look at certain numbers, but there’s also underlying things that affect how different things happen. He pretty much epitomizes a Flyer. I think he was probably born to be a Flyer with how he plays and what he brings to the table.”
“He left everything on the ice,” Fletcher said. “One of the premier power forwards in the game.”
Simmonds said he learned about the deal by watching the trade tracker on TSN. A few minutes later, he got a call from Fletcher.
“I’m just hoping to be another piece of the puzzle and hopefully win a championship,” Simmonds said about his new team in an interview with TSN. “That’s obviously the main goal.”
Simmonds said the trade process was “nerve-wracking. It’s exciting, and sad at the same time. I’ve been in Philadelphia for so long. I feel like a part of this community and this team. But I’m definitely excited and can’t wait to get started.”
He will try to help a Nashville power play that is last in the NHL with just a 12.6 percent success rate.
Acquired with Brayden Schenn and a second-round draft pick in the stunning 2011 deal that sent captain Mike Richards to Los Angeles, Simmonds quickly established himself with the Flyers.
In his first season in Philadelphia, Simmonds scored 28 goals — double his production in his final year with the Kings — and became a fan favorite because of his bruising style of play.
“I got a different opportunity when I came to Philadelphia,” Simmonds once said, “and I just tried to seize the opportunity that was given to me by Lavy [Laviolette, then the Flyers coach] and it seemed the organization had faith in me.”
Simmonds, who was 23 when he played his first game with the Flyers, blossomed into one of the league’s elite power forwards. A model of consistency, he scored 28, 15 (in a lockout-shortened 45-game season), 29, 28, 32, 31, and 24 goals in his first seven seasons with the Flyers.
Nicknamed “Simmer,” “Simmy” and “Wayne Train,” the Ontario native has struggled to turn on the red light recently, but he contributed by winning board battles, setting up goals, and defending teammates.
After playing what turned out to be his final game with the Flyers, Saturday’s thrilling 4-3 comeback win over the Penguins at Lincoln Financial Field, Simmonds was given the player-of-the-game helmet from his teammates.
“... That was an unbelievable game, boys,” Simmonds told them. “It’s been an honor and pleasure. Hopefully, I’m still here. Either way, boys, keep making the push.”
They will make their playoff push without him.
“He makes everybody in the locker room a lot braver. He’s got everybody’s back,” interim coach Scott Gordon said Monday afternoon before the deal was made. “But at the same time, he can make contributions offensively. He’s a great presence in the room, a great presence on the bench. Those guys are hard to find. Even though there’s not as much physicality in the game because of the speed, he brings that every night.”
Gordon said when something needs to be addressed, Simmonds was "the first guy to do it."
Captain Claude Giroux played the good cop, while Simmonds, an alternate captain, played the bad cop. Someone will now have to step into Simmonds’ role.