On Saturday, HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic announced that striker Dominik Simon had signed with the club he played for from 2012 to 2014. Nothing too surprising about that, but there was an interesting nugget from from the team that Simon had been offered the opportunity to attend Penguins training camp, but he declined and will instead play in his home country for the next two years.
Much of this speaks to the influence of Mike Sullivan, it has been well reported that Sullivan was the driving force for the Pens, bringing Simon back for a second stint in Pittsburgh in 2021-22. Sullivan often praised Simon’s versatility to play a variety of different roles on just about any line and on both wings.
That’s fine, apart from the fact that Dom Simon isn’t as effective as he was around 2018-20. (Which, to be fair, Simon was extremely helpful and effective before a serious shoulder injury).
Simon can still help drive the game, but his shortcomings and contribution limitations have added to a 20% WAR player in recent years who has scored just three goals and 13 points in his last 83 games. in the NHL since 2021. It’s below replacement level, and honestly a bit of a blessing in disguise to all parties that he didn’t accept the Pens’ offer.
It was likely a Professional Trial Offer (PTO) and not a full contract, and the pens are stacked with numbers at the low end. Could Simon have possibly outplayed forwards like Ryan Poehling and Josh Archibald and Drew O’Connor or at least made Sullivan believe he was worth keeping? Sure. But would that have really meant anything to the Pens? Probably not.
Simon likely noted that the Pens kept Rickard Rakell, found a way to keep Danton Heinen and had other bodies in the mix who already had contracts like Poehling, Archibald and O’Connor. It would also be hard to miss that Simon fell out of favor last year and got into a trade primarily to even out contracts and salaries to ship to Anaheim in March. There is no risk for the Pens, who could have seen Simon once again and used him if an injury or two occurred. There would be a risk for Simon, since European leagues start before the NHL regular season and it could hamper his opportunities elsewhere if he opted for a tryout over a sure thing.
With that in mind, Simon took the sure thing with a contract in the Czech Republic. The third time in Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been the charm or probably turned out to be very different from last season. There are times when it’s good to move on and it should be good for Simon and the Penguins to go in different directions.