NEWARK, NJ - On Monday afternoon, New Jersey Devils General Manager Ray Shero announced the free agency signing of forward Wayne Simmonds to a one-year, $5 million dollar contract. Simmonds spent the 2018-19 NHL season split between the Philadelphia Flyers and Nashville Predators before entering Free Agency for the first time in his career. New Jersey Devils Reporter Amanda Stein caught up with Simmonds shortly after he signed his contract.
Video: ANALYSIS | Wayne Simmonds
Amanda Stein: Welcome to New Jersey, Wayne! You're officially signed on for a year with New Jersey, how did this all come together?
Wayne Simmonds: New Jersey was one of the first teams that I spoke with in Free Agency and I just talked to Mr. Shero and John Hynes and I think they were just really honest with me. That's what I'm looking for. The communication was good, I felt like being a Devil would be a really good fit for me.
AS: Talking to Ray and John, what was it about their message that enticed you to want to join this team?
WS: I think it was the direction that the team is going. I had seen that they made the trade for P.K. [Subban], there's a lot of great young players on the Devils and I just thought that I was a piece that could help further the team. I thought there's a good spot for me there and I think it will be a good place for me to be to help out.
AS: John Hynes can be a pretty influential guy, what was your conversation like with him?
WS: He was pretty straight forward, he asked me what my questions were. The only thing I really had for him was I'm just looking for honesty. If I'm playing bad, tell me I'm playing bad. If I'm playing good, I'm playing good, you know what I mean. He was pretty straight forward and just really liked the way he delivered his message to me. He made me feel wanted and like I was a piece to the puzzle. I definitely appreciated that.
AS: You mentioned that John Hynes wanted you to ask him questions, what does that say to a player when a potential head coach is giving you that opportunity?
WS: It's all about honesty. When he's asking me how I feel about myself and things of that nature, I'm going to tell him straight up. I'm a pretty straight forward guy. It's a little bit different of a process obviously, this is the first time I'm a free agent, so I just tried to be as honest as I could and give it straight to him.
Video: Simmonds, Devils agree to terms on one-year, $5M deal
AS: You're certainly no stranger to the New Jersey Devils having spent the majority of your career just down the road with the Philadelphia Flyers. Will it be a bit strange putting on a Devils jersey?
WS: Yeah, I guess so! At the end of the day this is a business, right? I got traded last year at the deadline, so I feel a little bit removed from Philly. But you're right, I spent a lot of time there. I enjoyed my time there, but it's time to move on and time to get going. I thought Jersey was the perfect place for me.
AS: Last season your offensive numbers weren't quite where they have been over the course of your season. When you have a season like that and you sign a one-year contract, is it about finding a bounce-back season for yourself?
WS: I think for me, this is me betting on myself. I'm a confident player and I know what I can bring to the table. I'm a pretty physical player, I'm aggressive and I can score. And I'm not afraid to protect my teammates if there's a fight or whatever it is, I'll be the first guy in there. The fit worked perfect, this is an opportunity to build myself back up and help the team out. I think it's just a perfect marriage.
AS: If you look at your career, you play a pretty tough game, yet you've never played less than 75 games in a season. To what do you credit that durability?
WS: I don't know! I've been called 'Gumby' back in the day… bend in all kinds of directions but never really break! I don't know to be honest. I'm one of those old school players, one of those tough-nosed guys where if I'm not dead I'm going to be trying to put my skates on and go out there. I was raised in the hockey world and at home as well. If you're able to do something, you're going to do it unless you physically can't do it.
AS: You mentioned him earlier, you're joining a team with your friend P.K. Subban. You played with him for the latter half of last season with Nashville and won a World Junior Championship with Canada together in 2008. What excites you about continuing that on-ice relationship?
WS: Definitely! P.K. is a good guy. He's youthful and full of enthusiasm. He brings it! He'll talk but he'll back it up. He's one of the premier defensemen in this league and when I saw him get traded to Jersey, at that point I actually had no clue that Jersey would even be a possible destination for me. But once I started talking to Jersey, I just saw all the pieces they were assembling and putting together, you know obviously getting [Jack] Hughes there, having Hallsy and [Nico] Hischier and all those guys. It really added to it. I'm excited to play with everyone there. Not only P.K., but everyone there.
AS: You also have a history with Taylor Hall. Both Toronto-area boys and teammates at the 2017 NHL All-Star Game. He mentioned in 2017 he was so happy to see you win that MVP at the All-Star Game, a recognition of your scoring ability you might not always get credit for.
WS: Obviously playing with Hallsy at the All-Star Game, I probably owe him half of the truck that I won, to be honest with you! I know Hallsy going back a long time, I played against him in junior and coming up. We've crossed paths and stuff like that, we actually used to go to the same country concert every summer so I always see him there, too! He's a great guy and obviously a former MVP. Just a heck of a player so I think any time you have skill like that on your team, I think guys are going to want to come there and play there. Guys want to play with guys of Hallsy ilk. He's a great player and I hope to be able to add another piece to the puzzle for the Devils.
AS: Now that it's all said and done, what are you looking most forward to now that you're a member of the New Jersey Devil?
WS: I always admired the way the Devils played. Obviously playing in Philly we played the Devils five or six times a year every single year and every time we came to play the Devils it was a nuisance. It was always something where I'd come into the building and go 'oh no, the Prudential Center again!' You know you were going to come and have a tough match every single game. I admire that about this team and I'm happy to be a part of it now!