Toronto Maple Leafs Land James Van Riemsdyk
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke continued to work his magic this weekend, pulling off a trade that had long been rumored, acquiring forward James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers in return for defenseman Luke Schenn.
The move will unite Schenn with brother Brayden in Philadelphia, while Toronto gets a legitimate top-six forward that will add some much needed goal scoring and some jam along the boards and in front of the net.
Originally drafted second overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers, JVR stands 6’3” and weighs in at 200 pounds. He is considered to be a power forward, but don’t expect him to hit everything that moves. His skill set is more on the offensive side, which is ’ok’ by the Leafs Nation and general manager Brian Burke.
“This is not a guy who’s going to put people through the glass. Said Brian Burke of JVR. This is a skill player with size, that uses his size effectively. This is not a plough-horse, this is a thoroughbred.”
On the upside, JVR already has one 20-goal season on his resume (2010-11). He scored seven playoff goals that season as well, which says something about his ability to raise his level of play when the chips are down. On the negative side, JVR has the reputation for being injury prone, including a concussion last season which contributed to him playing just 43 games last season.
JVR is under contract through 2017-18, carrying a cap hit of $4.25 million per season. IF JVR can remain healthy and hit the 30-goal mark on a consistent basis his contract will be considered a steal. If, however, he succumbs to injuries and fails to click with the Maple Leafs that $4.25 million will be an albatross hanging over Burke’s head.
Still, when JVR (23) did play he had moments of brilliance and did manage to put up 24 points in the 43 games that he did play in, so there is evidence he can be an effective player.
With Burke seemingly stockpiling young defensemen over the past two seasons, Schenn became expendable. Under the leadership of the now departed Ron Wilson Schenn’s role with the club diminished greatly, which may have caused Schenn to lose his confidence.
With no Chris Pronger in the Flyers lineup, Schenn will bring an element of grit to the Flyers and should continue his trend of being amongst the NHL’s hit leaders. Let’s face it; Pronger may have played his last NHL game, so the Flyers needed to address his loss on some level.
While many Maple Leaf fans are excited about the JVR acquisition, I would like to remind everyone that we are talking about a 40-point player that, yes, has a lot of upside, but will have to make good on those expectations with the Blue and White.
Unlike an acquisition of Bobby Ryan (who may very well land in Philly now) or Rick Nash, JVR is hardly a slam dunk to be an impact player.
That said, Schenn was no longer fitting into the Maple Leafs plans, and he too brings a measure of risk to the Flyers, so in the end Burke looks to have gotten good value here.
It will be interesting to see how Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle uses JVR. Will he use him on the first line alongside Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel, or ask him to centre that line? Or, will Carlyle chose to drop JVR down to the second unit and see if he can rekindle the likes of Nikolai Kulemin (pending RFA) and Mikhail Grabovski?
From the outside looking in, if JVR is willing and able to make the move to centre the Maple Leafs could benefit huge, but I digress.
One thing is for certain, Burke is far from done tinkering with his lineup this summer. Assuming a $70,300,000 salary cap for next season, the acquisition of JVR leaves Burke with just under $13 million with which to add some valuable pieces to the puzzle. Rumors are still swirling about a possible trade for Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo, and there is still a chance that Burke will go after Jake Gardiner’s former college defensive partner Justin Schultz on July 1st.
The Maple Leafs badly need an injection of grit throughout the lineup, so don’t rule out Burke making a move to improve his bottom-six forwards, either by trade or through free agency.
Burke will also have to make a decision on forward Nikolai Kulemin and defenseman Cody Franson, both of whom are restricted free agents. Joey Crabb and Jay Rosehill are also in need of new contracts, but it is unknown if either unrestricted free agent will be back with the Blue and White next season.
These are interesting times for Burke, and with his job possibly on the line this season here’s hoping he gets the recipe for playoff success right this time.
Until next time,