With the NHL Trade deadline looming at February 26 there has been no shortage of NHL trade rumors swirling around the hockey universe. Recently we have touched on rumors surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins and New York Rangers — and today we’ll look at the case for trading James van Riemsdyk.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk is a name that keeps popping up as a player possibly on the move by the trade deadline. van Riemsdyk will be a an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the Leafs have to decide what to do with the 28-year-old winger before Feb. 26. It’s certainly not an easy call. Toronto sits behind the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Atlantic Division but are firmly in playoff position and have won four of their past five games.
This season van Riemsdyk is averaging the least amount of time on ice (14:41) that he has seen in seven seasons — but he is a big body on the power play and already has more power play goals this season (7) than he had in his prior two seasons. Additionally, in terms of possesion his CF% of 56.4 percent is the highest of his career. He is a player with value, and value that should be taken advantage of this trade deadline. van Riemsdyk has a cap hit of $4.25 million (but will be a free agent in July) and could be a nice force on the power play for teams looking to make a long playoff run this season.
The Toronto Star reported that van Riemsdyk will seek $6 million a year in a long-term deal. Soon Toronto will have to give new contracts to Auston Matthews and William Nylander, and Mitch Marner and Toronto’s biggest need heading into the trade deadline is on the blue line. There just isn’t cap space for van Riemsdyk. But what if Toronto trades van Riemsdyk simply to acquire assets for a future deal?
Recently Darren Dreger of TSN.ca said he evaluates the price to pry van Riemsdyk from the Maple Leafs by looking at what the price of snagging Evander Kane from Buffalo would be: “a first round pick, a prospect, a roster player for certain teams and maybe even a conditional draft pick.” He doesn’t say that’s what Toronto would get for van Riemsdyk, but it’s at least a player to compare him to. Dreger posits that the assets from a deal like that could possibly be used for a bigger blueline prize for Toronto in the off-season: someone like Oliver Ekman-Larrson.
Could this make van Riemsdyk a trade chip too valuable not to use before Feb. 26? I think it does. Losing van Riemsdyk would certainly hurt Toronto’s chances at a deep Cup run, but could set them up with bargaining chips to use for future deals for the long-term health of the club. And if they don’t trade him they lose him for nothing this off season.
Let’s look at some upcoming left wingers who are also unrestricted free agents with van Riemsdyk:
James van Riemsdyk: 28 years old, 20 goals, 11 assists, CF% 56.4 percent
James Neal: 30 years old, 22 goals, 13 assists, CF% 52.6 percent
Daniel Sedin: 37 years old, 13 goals, 19 assists CF% 55.0 percent
David Perron: 29 years old, 13 goals, 31 assists CF% 49.4 percent
Evander Kane: 26 years old, 16 goals, 20 assists, CF% 50.9 percent
Rick Nash: 33 years old, 15 goals, 10 assists, CF% 48.7 percent
Thomas Vanek: 34 years old, 14 goals, 22 assists, CF% 44.2 percent
van Riemsdyk has age and production on his side this off season to land a contract he is looking for — one that Toronto may not invest in. But as a trade chip his age and production make him a very intriguing asset Toronto should use, even if the trade doesn’t immediately help the Leafs.
Toronto has an interesting decision to make. Do they think they can beat Tampa Bay in a seven-game series with JVR — or do they take a brief step back this season for potential long-term gains?
Photo Credit: Flickr/mark.watmough C.C. 2.0