On Saturday, news broke from HC Sparta Praha in the Czech Republic that forward Dominik Simon had signed with the club he played for from 2012-14. Nothing terribly surprising there, but there was an interesting nugget from the team that Simon had been offered him an opportunity to attend Penguins training camp, but he declined and instead will play in his homeland for the next two years.
A lot of this speaks to the influence of Mike Sullivan, it was well reported that Sullivan was the driving force in the Pens bringing Simon back for a second stint in Pittsburgh in 2021-22. Sullivan has often praised Simon’s versatility to play a variety of different roles on just about any line and on either wing.
That’s all well and good, aside from the fact that Dom Simon isn’t as effective now as he was from about 2018-20. (Which, to be fair, Simon was extremely useful and effective before a major shoulder injury).
Simon can help drive play still, but his deficiencies and limitations at contributing have added up to a 20% WAR player in recent years who has scored just three goals and 13 points in his last 83 NHL games dating back to 2021. That’s below replacement level, and truthfully a bit of a blessing in disguise for all parties that he didn’t take the Pens up on the offer.
It likely was a professional tryout (PTO) offer and not a full contract, and the Pens are stacked with numbers at the bottom of the lineup. Could Simon have conceivably out-played forwards like Ryan Poehling and Josh Archibald and Drew O’Connor or at least made Sullivan think he was worth keeping around? Sure. But would it have actually amounted to anything for the Pens? Probably not.
Simon probably noted that the Pens had kept Rickard Rakell, found a way to keep Danton Heinen and have some other bodies in the mix that already have contracts like Poehling, Archibald and O’Connor. It would be difficult to also miss that Simon fell out of favor last year and thrown into a trade mainly to even out contracts and salaries to be shipped off to Anaheim in March. There’s no risk for the Pens, who could have seen Simon one more time and made use of him if an injury or two pops up. There would be risk for Simon, since European leagues start before the NHL regular season and that could impede 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 Czechia. The third time in Pittsburgh wouldn’t have been the charm or likely turned out much differently from this last season. At some points, it’s good to move on and it should be good for Simon and the Penguins to go separate directions.