The Penguins will soon bid farewell to yet another familiar face. Mike DeFabo of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported Saturday night that the Penguins are unlikely to extend a qualifying offer to restricted free agent winger Dominik Simon.
The Penguins locked down one RFA today by signing Tristan Jarry. But it sounds like they're preparing to move on from another.
GMJR says the forward will "probably not" receive a qualifying offer before Wednesday's deadline. https://t.co/7flrXpjnep
— Mike DeFabo (@MikeDeFabo) October 3, 2020
DeFabo noted that the Penguins plan on submitting qualifying offers to restricted free agent forwards Sam Lafferty and Anthony Angello. Should things go according to plan, the Penguins will be left with a measly $1.025 million in salary cap space for the upcoming season.
Simon, who played 174 games over the course of five seasons with the Penguins, scored just 19 times despite spending over 40% of his 5v5 ice time on Sidney Crosby’s wing.
Thanks to a dazzling 2018-19 campaign, Simon endeared himself to analytics-savvy Penguins fans. Not only did he lead all NHL forwards in EVD GAR (even strength defense goals above replacement), the Penguins saw an uptick in shots, scoring chances, expected goals and goals when he was paired with Crosby at 5v5 compared to Crosby’s time without him.
Simon has an above average hockey mind and it allowed him to remain a competent NHL player despite a lack of foot speed and goal scoring ability. He’d probably be a fixture in the middle of a team’s lineup if he could bury the puck more often. Instead, he’s a lineup tweener unless he’s playing with Crosby.
Since the start of the 2017-18 season, the Penguins scored just 41.7% of the goals at 5v5 when Simon was on the ice without Crosby despite controlling 51.6% of the shot attempts and 51.9% of the expected goals.
The Penguins’ 5.6% shooting percentage with Simon on the ice away from Crosby suggests there is no regression to the mean coming in terms of more goals.
Though the discrepancy is smaller than I imagined, Simon’s goal totals have lagged behind his individual expected goal totals in each of the past three seasons.
Although his shooting talent is minimal, his playmaking ability would often surprise you. In the following clip, Simon threaded a quick pass to Crosby who broke in behind the defense and ripped a backhander for a goal.
In the next clip, Simon won a battle along the boards and swept a beautiful cross-ice pass to Crosby while falling. Crosby waited, then dished a pass back across the goal mouth to Jake Guentzel for an easy tap-in.
At 26 years old it is unlikely Simon will significantly improve his shooting. It is even more unlikely that he will ever have a better season than his 2018-19 campaign.
Simon ranked in the sixth percentile in GAR this past season. After undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder in April, it’s fair to have concerns about his future.
Although the Penguins are in pretty desperate need of help in their bottom-six, I agree with the decision to move on from him. The Penguins need to find some goal scoring support and Simon simply isn’t that guy. Even if he’s positively impacting the game, the effect is severely diminished by his shot.
He could be a solid addition to a team that has a couple of goal scorers toward the bottom of their lineup, but he should not be relied on as a play-driver.
With Simon on his way out the door and Zach Aston-Reese still recovering from injury when next season begins, the Penguins’ opening night forward group will most likely look like this.
I’m gonna puke.
Good thing they have a first round pick to incentivize a team to take Jack Johnson’s $3.25M off the books and another $5.3M they can move in Patric Hornqvist to clear cap space.
Take some time today to check in on Geoff.
— geoff (@G_Off817) October 3, 2020
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Data via Natural Stat Trick, Evolving Hockey, Hockey Viz