I was happy when the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Wayne Simmonds during the offseason. I was even happier when Simmonds came out of the gates smoking and scored five goals in a two-week time span between January 24 and February 5.
Then, and it was no fault of his own, his season fell apart when he suffered a broken wrist. After he returned after six weeks of healing, Simmonds scored two goals and never looked the same. My guess is that Simmonds’ days in a Maple Leafs’ uniform are done. Although he might re-sign with the team, I’m thinking he won’t.
What If the Maple Leafs Had Signed Corey Perry Instead?
Given Maple Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas’ offseason appetite to gain grit and create a team that was harder to play against, in looking back I have to wonder what might have happened if the Maple Leafs had signed Corey Perry instead of The Wayne Train. No blame on Simmonds, but is it too much to think that the team would still be in the playoff race where they would be playing the Vegas Golden Knights in place of the Canadiens?
What I do know is that the Maple Leafs missed a solid contributor when they didn’t sign Perry. Right now, he’s helping his Montreal Canadiens’ team hang tough in a 2-2 series tie with the Vegas Golden Knights that was supposed to be cake walk for the Golden Knights. [And tonight it would be a 3-1 Canadiens’ series lead had the team not given the Golden Knights a single great scoring chance in overtime.]
The point is that Perry has scored three goals and eight points in 15 games this postseason. He’s playing a similar – but very different – role than Jason Spezza plays with the team. He averages fourth-line minutes at about 13 per game and causes a disturbance whenever he’s on. He seems to be in the middle of everything.
Corey Perry’s Similarities to Jason Spezza
Also similar to Spezza, Perry has become one of the best free-agent pickups of the offseason at the bargain contract of $750,000. It’s Perry’s toughness and battling style of play that has been instrumental in helping the Canadiens get to where they are in the playoffs.
In truth, if I were the Canadiens I’d offer him another contract for certain. There’s no doubt he’s earned both respect and another contract somewhere. NHL general managers will want him as a UFA whatever happens to Montreal’s Stanley Cup run.
The 36-year-old right-winger averaged 13:44 time on the ice during the 2020-21 regular season. And, although Perry isn’t the player he was with the Anaheim Ducks, he still can bring it – as he’s showing during the postseason playoffs. He’s effective. He’d have helped the Maple Leafs win.
His body of work in the playoffs has been solid this season, but it was also solid last season with the Dallas Stars. He can score when the going gets tough. Furthermore, game-after-game he brings a physical component to his play that teammates love and opponents hate. He’s annoyingly persistent. He seems to just keep hitting players on the other team.
Would Perry Re-consider Toronto?
Last season, the word was that Perry had expressed interest in signing with the Maple during the offseason, but Dubas signed Simmonds instead. As I say, there’s no blame on Simmonds for his season. Until the injury, he looked every bit worth the $1.5 million contract he signed for. But six weeks off after the wrist took the steam out of Simmonds’ game.
After the Canadiens’ Stanley Cup run is over – win or lose, what happens with Perry? Would he be willing to return to the capital city of his home province cheaply enough to sign on with the Maple Leafs? Given what Maple Leafs’ fans witnessed first-hand during the Canadiens-Maple Leafs’ playoff series, I’m sure a lot of them would be encouraging the organization to try to sign him up.
You can’t hurt for trying.
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