The Washington Capitals announced on Tuesday that they had signed 27 year-old right winger Wayne Simpson to a one-year, two-way contract that pays the Massachusetts native $140,000 if he plays the season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, and the NHL league minimum $650,000 if he gets called up to play with the Capitals.
Washington, weak on the offensive wings with the departures of Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, and Daniel Winnik, is looking to shore up the right side of its forward corps with the signings of Simpson and Devante Smith-Pelly.
Wayne Simpson - not to be confused with perennial Philadelphia Flyers stud Wayne Simmonds, nor beloved American sitcom buffoon Homer Simpson - is a bit undersized as these things tend to go, standing just 5’10” and tipping the scales at a meaty-but-not-monolithic 194 lbs. As the NHL in general shifts towards speed and skill over bruising brawn, his diminutive stature will not necessarily keep Simpson from cracking the Capitals roster, so long as he can move his feet quickly.
And it seems that he can. Simpson, 27, has never played a single game in the NHL after going undrafted out of hockey powerhouse Union College, but that hasn’t kept him from forcing teams to give him serious looks.
Every step of Simpson’s career, from the NCAA at Union College, to the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays, to the AHL with the Providence Bruins and Portland Pirates, Simpson’s point totals have improved year-over-year until he is promoted to the next level. Then, he repeats it.
In fact, Simpson remains the South Carolina Stingrays (now the Capitals’ ECHL affiliate) franchise leader in points in a single postseason, with thirty-eight points. This season with the AHL’s Providence Bruins (who eliminated the Hershey Bears from the Calder Cup playoffs), Simpson was second on the team in regular season points (49 pts, 0.64 pts/gm) and playoff points (14 pts, 0.82 pts/gm).
Is it likely Simpson will crack the Capitals NHL roster this season? No, not particularly. But with Washington’s fourth line in flux like so many malfunctioning 1.21 gigawatt ion capacitors, he certainly has as good a chance as anyone.
And besides: a 27 year-old, undrafted, undersized prospect who just keeps over-performing?
I know who I’ll be rooting for.