In just a few short weeks, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher is going to have to make some decisions. Are the Flyers going to sellers at the trade deadline? Are they good enough that they could consider buying some players? Could it be a combination of the two? Who is going to be moved?
Among the most talked about Flyers players, both locally and nationally, is impending free agent James van Riemsdyk. He’s an experienced veteran with a lot of high-hockey IQ. A lot of teams that are contending for a Stanley Cup banner could use him and his skills. But if he is to be moved, the bigger issue is what can the Flyers get back for him.
There were plenty of rumors floating around in the summer of 2022 that the team had tried to trade him to free up cap space. No team offered anything close to being fair. Likewise, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken and the Kraken whiffed on taking him, choosing Carson Twarynski instead.
JVR was a former first-round pick; the second overall pixk in 2007. He found his footing with the team and was part of a youth movement 10 years ago that included players like Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, and Wayne Simmonds. He quickly became a scoring threat, kept getting hurt, and ran into disagreements with then-coach Peter Laviolette. He was traded to Toronto where he flourished, scoring 25+ goals in four of his six seasons as a Maple Leaf.
He returned to Philly before the start of the 2018-19 season on a five-year, $35 million deal. He scored 27 goals in his first season but hasn’t done much more since. The last few years have seen him deal with injuries, COVID-19, and just general inconsistent play. Some of it may be him. Some of it may be his linemates. Some of it may be from playing under three systems under three completely different coaches. And when you look at the stats from some other players during this same time period, Travis Konecny for one, could be a big factor as well.
He started off this year on fire, earning a point in each of the first four games: two goals and two assists. Two games later, he broke his finger. He missed the last few games of October, all of November, and the first week of December. He has scored six goals in the 23 games he has played since returning from the injury. Likewise, he has just 10 assists. For a man with a “sniper” reputation that JVR has, it simply isn’t good enough.
First of all, for the Flyers’ sake, it would be great if he just started “going off”, as the kids would say. He has been playing on the top line with Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett for the last few weeks. Frost has had a good year and Tippett is putting up career highs. JVR, for the most part, hasn’t been too involved in this play. If he gets hot, the others will get even hotter.
Likewise, a “hot” van Riemsdyk will be much easier to move and easier to sell. Competing teams would rather take a player who has found their scoring touch than someone who has been as cold as the ice they play on. Furthermore, why would a team cough up a lot of assets to acquire an overpriced player who isn’t playing up to their full potential?
Teams may want JVR, but they don’t need him. There is a very real possibility that the Flyers could be stuck with him for the rest of the season. There is also a very real possibility that Fletcher might only be able to get back something as measly as a seventh-rounder. And if you think this sounds crazy, just remember this is the same Fletcher who traded away Gostisbehere for literally nothing. Sadly, this could be how negotiations play out:
JVR’s future is as much in his hands as they are in Fletcher’s. The better he plays, the more attractive of an addition to a new club he can become. The more attractive he looks to other teams, the more the Flyers can command in a trade for him as potential teams could get into a bidding war for his services.
Carolina, with the sudden exit of Max Pacioretty due to an Achilles tendon injury, could easily use his services. Many of the other Eastern teams could use him too. If some of the big names of the trade deadline, like Bo Horvat or Timo Meier, go to rivals, some teams, like Boston, New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Tampa, or even fringe teams like Florida could inquire about his services depending on their available cap space.
Likewise, if the Flyers, still feel that they may be doing enough to be in the playoffs, they may not want to ship him to a Western Conference team. Teams like Seattle, Minnesota, and Winnipeg could use a veteran like JVR. Colorado could use his services if they want to keep the Stanley Cup in Denver. Dallas and Vegas could always use another sniper.
It is possible that one of these teams could be interested in a trade-and-sign. If that is the case, I hope that JVR learns that he is not going to command a $7 million-a-year deal. If he is prideful on that, then his best option is to sign and work out a 1-2 year “Show Me” deal. A team could be willing to do that.
Most likely, he is going to be a rental player. The young stars of this year’s trade deadline, like Horvat, Meier, and Matt Dumba will most likely be trade and sign deals. JVR could be the star of the rental market. But he is going to have to play better first. For the Flyers to get a good deal for him, he will have to play well. More importantly, if he is going to want another team to want his services, he is going to have to start playing like he is still a sought-after commodity. He’s probably not going to bring in a haul as Claude Giroux did. He may bring in a little. He may bring in something good. Time will tell.