There are only so many big catches in the NHL’s trading waters. Not every team hooks a marlin. Some will have to settle for smaller meals.
And that’s where a reliable veteran like Philadelphia Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk comes in handy. The list of high-impact scoring forwards left for contenders to acquire has shrunken considerably over the past month, with Bo Horvat, Vladimir Tarasenko and Ryan O’Reilly coming off the board. While Timo Meier and Patrick Kane undoubtedly remain the top forwards still out there, players like Ivan Barbashev and ‘JVR’ represent the consolation prizes. Depending on whether Meier and Kane go before deadline day on March 3, the Flyers could even find themselves fielding multiple offers for ‘JVR.’
My colleague Frank Seravalli profiled van Riemsdyk earlier this month. At 33, he’s a known commodity, for better and for worse. He’s not fleet of foot and won’t help out on the defensive side of the puck, but he remains an above-average net front scorer and welcome dressing room presence. His 19-goal pace this season almost feels like it should be pro-rated to 25 given the company he’s kept on a weak Flyers team.
So teams should come calling to rent the pending UFA van Riemsdyk, with the Flyers eating 50 percent of his $7 million AAV and a third-party broker being an option if the $3.5 million is too much to stomach. Who are the best fits for ‘JVR? Consider these six teams, listed alphabetically.
Why he makes sense: It’s no secret the Canes are in the market for a top-six forward. They’ve lost left winger Max Pacioretty for the season after he re-tore his Achilles tendon. With his $7 million cap hit on LTIR, the Canes currently project for more than $10 million in cap space on deadline day. Not only does that mean it’s relatively easy for them to make the money work, but it also means they can possibly afford two additions if, for instance, the Flyers retained money on ‘JVR.’
What it might cost: The Canes own their 2023 second-round pick and have two second-rounders for 2024, one of which they received from Philly. Any deal built around a second-rounder feels like a fair price for what van Riemsdyk brings.
Fly in the ointment: There’s no way a van Riemsdyk type tops GM Don Waddell’s wish list. The Hurricanes are top-tier Stanley Cup contenders and we should expect them to pursue the best available forwards first – namely Meier. Owner Tom Dundon indicated to Seravalli this week that his team will be more aggressive than ever trying to load up before the deadline. While they can afford more than one addition, center is an even bigger need for them than help on the wings. ‘JVR’ would feel more like a luxury.
Why he makes sense: The Stars have been open pretty much all year about their desire to add a scoring-line forward. They also find themselves without a ton of cap wiggle room, so it’s tough for them to chase a big-ticket piece without money in and money out. If the Flyers retain 50 percent on JVR, it’s not inconceivable that the Stars could strike a deal, especially if a third-party broker helped out. They’re developing an exciting next wave of prospects and wouldn’t have to sacrifice a blue-chipper to land van Riemsdyk.
What it might cost: Dallas already dealt its first- and third-rounder for 2023. Maybe it just throws in the towel on this draft and wipes out the second-rounder, too? If money in, money out is crucial, I could see the Stars kicking in a player in need of a scenery change. Denis Gurianov at $2.9 million makes too much sense. He’s an RFA, so the Flyers could choose not to qualify him and let him walk in the summer. If the Flyers were willing to take him in a deal while retaining 50 percent on ‘JVR,’ Dallas might not need a third-party broker.
Fly in the ointment: Dallas is one of the older teams in the league, with an average age of 28. Its forward corps already includes 38-year-old Joe Pavelski, 33-year-old Jamie Benn, 33-year-old Luke Glendening and 31-year-old Tyler Seguin. Do the Stars really want to get older and slower than they already are?