DETROIT — With the Flyers surging, right winger Wayne Simmonds is having too much fun to be concerned about the swirling rumors that he will be dealt before the Feb. 25 trade deadline.
“It’s actually been getting easier, Simmonds said after the Flyers raised their record to 12-1-1 over their last 14 games as they outlasted Detroit on Sunday, 3-1. “We started to win games, started having fun. We’re enjoying each other right now, so it’s been nice.”
A prospective unrestricted free agent this summer, Simmonds is aware of the trade talk, and that he is reportedly drawing interest from Nashville, Boston, Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, and Toronto, among others.
But it hasn’t affected his play.
He has scored only one goal in the last 13 games, but he has contributed five assists in that span and has done other things to help his productive line, which includes a revived Nolan Patrick and Scott Laughton.
Simmonds, 30, who has 16 goals, also contributed by winning a decision against Detroit’s Anthony Mantha 53 seconds into Sunday’s game. It was payback for Mantha’s cross-check from behind Saturday against captain Claude Giroux — and just one of the intangibles the Flyers will miss if Simmonds is traded.
“I just started something that had to be done,” Simmonds said of the bout, “and he did a good job and accepted right away. It’s part of the game.”
“That’s the type of guy Wayne is,” said Carter Hart, who made 37 saves to steal the victory for his outplayed team. “Simmer’s a team guy. He’ll do anything for his teammates. It’s awesome to have a guy like that in your locker room. I love playing with the guy. He’s an awesome dude.”
Contract talks between Simmonds’ agent, Eustace King, and Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher have been slow. Fletcher said he will not have a John Tavares situation happen to the Flyers. The Islanders kept Tavares at last year’s trade deadline and then lost him to free agency in the summer.
If he doesn’t re-sign Simmonds, Fletcher wants to get something in return.
Scott Gordon, named the Flyers’ interim coach on Dec. 17, had a conversation with Simmonds about the trade rumors when he first got the job.
“I talked to him about what my thoughts were,” said Gordon, whose team hosts best-in-the-NHL Tampa Bay on Tuesday. “But I’ll tell you one thing right now: To his credit, I haven’t felt the need to talk to him [about it again] because he hasn’t changed his approach one bit. If anything, he’s actually played better more recently, the closer it’s gotten [to the trade deadline] than when I first got here. He seems really comfortable with what he’s doing and how he’s playing; it’s almost as if he’s blocked it out, and I don’t think too many guys are able to do that.”
Added Gordon” “I told him, ‘As long as you’re here, you’re in the mix and your ice time is not going to be affected, and your role with the team is not going to change. Whether you stay the rest of the year without a contract, whether you get traded at the deadline, or you get a new contract with us for 15 years — whatever the situation is, I’m going to treat you like you’re part of the team and have a big role with the team.’ ”
Gordon said he never considered reducing Simmonds’ role on, say, the top power-play unit, because he might be dealt and another player could perhaps benefit from more time.
Simmonds is in his eighth season with the Flyers, and “deserves the right to be a part of the power play for all the great things he’s done, not just on the power play but the way he has stood up for his teammates,” Gordon said.