Despite a moderate surge up the standings that has them appearing to be on the fringes of the playoff bubble, the reality is that the Philadelphia Flyers should still look to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, collecting any future assets that they can in the process.
Thanks to his expiring contract, James van Riemsdyk has long been the most obvious piece for the Flyers to move before the season’s end, and I’m happy to report that there is an ideal destination for him — the Carolina Hurricanes. Yes, Chuck Fletcher should get on the horn with ‘Canes GM Don Waddell soon to explore a possible JVR trade, because the Flyers’ division rival could surely use a player of his ilk.
Trading JVR to the Carolina Hurricanes makes almost too much sense.
This situation has crystallized recently due to Carolina winger Max Pacioretty re-injuring his Achilles tendon shortly after returning from offseason surgery for the same issue, an unfortunate turn of events (for them) that will most likely require surgery and keep Pacioretty out for the remainder of the season.
This throws a severe wrench into Carolina’s plans of essentially treating Pacioretty as a midseason addition to their already dangerous forward corps, perhaps freeing them up to focus on other areas of the club for any deadline adds. Now, though, their thinking has been altered.
Enter the Flyers and James van Riemsdyk.
I won’t pretend that JVR is on the level of a healthy Max Pacioretty. Though they were both first-round picks in the 2007 draft (JVR 2nd overall and Pacioretty 22nd), Pacioretty has proven to be the better scorer and play-driver over the course of their careers. But van Riemsdyk is no slouch, and his salary cap hit matches up exactly with what Carolina will be saving by placing Pacioretty on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR). Seems like fate.
Carolina traded for Max Pacioretty last offseason for pennies on the dollar because the Vegas Golden Knights, Pacioretty’s former team, were in a salary cap crunch. It was an astute one-year gamble for Waddell and his team, with a chance to extend Pacioretty beyond 2023 if he proved to be a good fit. But now Carolina will have to pivot and JVR, a reasonable facsimile of what they hoped they were getting in Pacioretty, should intrigue them. If Chuck Fletcher isn’t already picking up the phone, he isn’t doing his job.
The return haul for van Riemsdyk won’t be huge, of course. Maybe a prospect or a mid-round pick. Maybe both, but probably not. If Fletcher waits too long, however, the price figures to go down as teams set their sights on some of the better forwards — Bo Horvat, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Timo Meier, just to name a few — who figure to be on the move.
From a Flyers’ perspective, it’d be best to set the market, get in, and get out. When you don’t have a prime asset available (and the Flyers surely don’t), you must be proactive. In addition, the newly created roster spot would afford the Flyers a chance to give a lengthier NHL audition to a player or two.
This move would make a lot of sense for all parties involved, especially van Riemsdyk himself. He could earn himself one more moderate NHL contract if he shows what he can do on a winning club down the stretch of this regular season and for a good playoff run.
It would help the Flyers’ ability to trade him if he picked up his scoring a bit (6 goals in 22 games since returning from a 6-week absence), but teams should know what they are getting by now with this veteran winger.
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So, Flyers, shop JVR wherever you can, but keep an eye fixed squarely on the Hurricanes; they have a perfect opening for him at this point in time. And get ahead of the trade market well before the March 3 deadline. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking this team can make a serious run at a playoff spot, or that James van Riemsdyk needs to be kept to get them there. Let’s make a deal.