Maple Leafs sign defenceman T.J. Brodie, gritty winger Wayne Simmonds in free agency

Maple Leafs sign defenceman T.J. Brodie, gritty winger Wayne Simmonds in free agency

TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs hit the ground running in NHL free agency by welcoming some gritty, local flavour up front.

By the time the sun went down, they had addressed a big need on their blue line.

The club made two moves as the market opened Friday, signing veteran winger Wayne Simmonds before also inking defenceman T.J. Brodie.

“It’s a great team. Close to home, close to family. Definitely excited to see what happens,” Brodie said in a conference call.

“They’re a great team, playing against them this year they’re fast, skilled… It’s a tough team to play against. I just hope to add to that and whether that’s moving the puck, or just in the defensive zone, I’m pretty much up for anything and I hope to contribute and make them better.”

Simmonds addresses Toronto’s desire for more toughness and sandpaper up front, while Brodie — a left shot who plays the right side — should slot onto the Leafs’ No. 1 pairing with Morgan Rielly.

“He’s a great player, he’s similar to (Flames captain Mark Giordano), one of those guys that’s good at everything… I hope if I play with him I make him better,” Brodie said.

Brodie, 30, signed a four-year, US$20-million contract after spending his entire career with the Calgary Flames.

The 114th pick in the 2008 draft from Chatham, Ont., has 48 goals and 266 points in 634 regular-season games to go along with 15 points (four goals, 11 assists) in 30 playoff outings.

Simmonds, meanwhile, signed a one-year, $1.5-million contract to play in his hometown. The 32-year-old has 251 goals and 499 points in 909 career games with the Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, New Jersey Devils and Buffalo Sabres over his 12 NHL seasons.

The 61st pick in the 2007 draft by Los Angeles, Simmonds has added 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 44 playoff contests.

“In the role that I’m being brought in with Toronto, I think it’s obviously to bring in some toughness,” he said on a video conference call from his car with reporters. “But at the same time, I think I’m a pretty good hockey player myself.

“That’s more functional toughness coming for me.”

Toronto has also been linked with St. Louis Blues defenceman Alex Pietrangelo — the biggest fish in this year’s free-agent pond — for some time, but barring a major trade, Brodie’s signing would appear to have shut the door on that possibility in a world where the salary cap is expected to stay flat at $81.5 million because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic realities.

Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas confirmed Friday afternoon before the Brodie deal was announced that he’d spoken to Pietrangelo’s agent, Don Meehan, but that’s as much information as he was willing to divulge.

“I’ve not talked to Alex at this point,” said the GM. “They know where we stand and what our interest is, and also where our limitations are.”

Dubas added that he would continue to look at upgrading his defence corps in both free agency and via trade.

“There are options,” he said. “We’re exploring both, as I think we have to.”

Turns out the answer was Brodie.

As for Simmonds, Dubas said earlier this week he wants his talent-rich roster to be harder to play against, and the six-foot-two, 185-pound forward — along with his 1,123 career penalty minutes — should help support the likes of Auston Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner and William Nylander up front.

“We think he’s going to be a very good player for us,” said Dubas, who indicated there’s more work to do in that area. “We’re excited to have him here as a Maple Leaf.”

Simmonds battled hip and core-body injuries the last few seasons, but said the time off related to the pandemic has provided him a “silver lining” in terms of training and preparing for next season.

“The talent level on the Leafs is unbelievable,” he added. “It’s second to none in the league.

“What I’m trying to do here is just come in and play my game, play my style, don’t change much and complement what the Leafs already have in place.”

Toronto was left bitterly disappointed following a five-game defeat at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the qualifying round of this summer’s restart to the NHL’s pandemic-delayed 2019-20 campaign.

That setback came on the heels of consecutive seven-game losses to the Boston Bruins in the first round of the playoffs in both 2018 and 2019.

Simmonds, who was given permission by Buffalo to talk to other teams prior to the opening of free agency, is the second veteran forward to sign with the Leafs in recent days after 37-year-old Jason Spezza — another Toronto native — re-upped for $700,000 in 2020-21.

“I’ve played a long time in this league, so I think the majority of people know what my game is,” Simmonds said. “I’m a team-first type of guy who’s no-nonsense.

“I play the game hard, I think I play the game the right way and I have no problem sticking up for my teammates or being the guy who’s asked to go out there and jumpstart the team if need be.”

Montreal GM Marc Bergevin confirmed he spoke to Simmonds about joining the Canadiens, but the winger instead chose his hometown club.

“He’s a player we would love to have here,” Bergevin said. “He chose Toronto and we wish him the best.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct., 9, 2020.

___

Follow @JClipperton_CP on Twitter

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cilantro and Chive was voted in the top three in no less than 13 different categories in the 2020 Best of Lacombe Readers Choice Awards. Photo by Megan Roth/Lacombe Express
Cilantro and Chive opening in Red Deer

There will now be two Cilantro and Chive locations. The restaurant announced… Continue reading

People wear face masks as they wait to enter a store in Montreal on October 24, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Canadian provinces hardest hit by COVID-19 reach sobering milestones

MONTREAL — The Canadian provinces hardest hit by the global COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on as Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal study details workers hit hardest by tax, benefit system for extra earnings

OTTAWA — Newly released documents show Finance Department officials calculated that workers… Continue reading

Cenovus. (The Canadian Press)
Cenovus to buy Husky Energy in deal valued at $23.6B, company will remain in Alberta

CALGARY — Cenovus Energy Inc. is buying Husky Energy Inc. in an… Continue reading

test tube with the blood test is on the table next to the documents. Positive test for coronavirus covid-19. The concept of fighting a dangerous Chinese disease.
The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020

The latest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Canada as of 10:49… Continue reading

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
John Horgan says he will work across party lines to find ideas that work for B.C.

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s election results show a divided province with Liberal… Continue reading

President Donald Trump gestures from the top of the steps of Air Force 1 at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. When people in the United States talk about moving to Canada to escape four more years of Donald Trump, it’s usually either a punchline or a pipe dream. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Susan Walsh
Move to Canada? A pipe dream for some Americans is a parachute for Canadian expats

WASHINGTON, Wash. — When people in the United States talk about moving… Continue reading

The Cogeco logo is seen in Montreal on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world in the coming week

TORONTO — Five things to watch for in the Canadian business world… Continue reading

President Donald Trump, left, and Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden during the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially facing higher taxes as the possibility of a contested U.S. presidential election appears to be fading, say investment experts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Patrick Semansky
Markets concerns about contested U.S. election fading with Biden lead in polls

TORONTO — Stock market investors are breathing a little easier despite potentially… Continue reading

(File photo)
Ontario records more than 1,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for first time

Ontario is reporting more than 1,000 mew daily cases of COVID-19 for… Continue reading

Pope Francis delivers his message during the Angelus noon prayer from the window of his studio overlooking St.Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
Pope names 13 new cardinals, includes US Archbishop Gregory

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis on Sunday named 13 new cardinals, including… Continue reading

Dave Mercer, President of Unifor Local 2121, overlooks Conception Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Terra Nova floating production vessel that is anchored there on Friday, October 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
As N.L.’s oil industry sputters, the emotional toll of the cod moratorium looms large

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Dave Mercer spent the early 1990s roaming around… Continue reading

Most Read