James van Riemsdyk was once hailed as one of the future cornerstones of the Flyers when he first came up. He was the second overall pick in 2007 behind Patrick Kane and just five selections before future Flyer Jakub Voracek. The South Jersey native (Monmouth is close enough to South Jersey!) was going to play for the team he followed as a kid.
He played for three years in Philadelphia and signed a six year deal for $25,500,000 . Then, just one year into his contract, after a year of injuries and run-ins with then head coach Peter Laviolette, he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defender Luke Schenn.
While in Toronto, JVR flourished, hitting the 25 goal mark in four of his six years. He was one of the best free agents on the market in 2018 and re-signed with the Flyers for five years and $35 million. It was seen as a huge coup for then GM Ron Hextall. Matching JVR with a lineup that featured Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, and Vorcek with young stars like Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom, and Shayne Gostisbehere seemed like it would pay huge dividends.
It didn’t. While van Riemsdyk had his best year in Philly that he would have in his five year stint, the rest of the team floundered. Simmonds would be traded that year and Patrick would start to suffer a series of career threatening injuries. And with the exception of the 2020 playoff bubble, the Flyers would never come close to hockey’s promised land.
Likewise, van Riemsdyk became a symbol of everything wrong with this team. He was overpaid for the little production he brought. He was a healthy scratch in some of the playoff games in the 2020 playoff bubble as he scored just two goals in 12 games. He was left unprotected in the NHL Expansion Draft in hopes that the Seattle Kraken would take him and his salary. Instead, Seattle chose prospect Carson Twarynski; who has yet to play for the Kraken.
Trade rumors have followed him throughout last offseason to help shore up salary cap space and during this year’s trade deadline. In fact, the fact that he wasn’t traded is a big reason that Chuck Fletcher is now a “former general manager of the Flyers”. He’s suffered a drop in production and a rash of injuries, including a broken finger this year.
And with his contract running out, it would seem that the Flyers and van Riemsdyk will soon part ways. But should both sides consider a reunion?