After a six-year hiatus, as a result of one of the worst trades in Flyers history, James van Riemsdyk is returning to Philadelphia. The former second-overall draft pick is coming back to the franchise that drafted him, agreeing to a five-year deal with an average annual salary of $7 million.
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) July 1, 2018
James van Riemsdyk Makes Flyers Better Now
With van Riemsdyk now in the mix, the Flyers now have a top-six forward group containing Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Nolan Patrick, Jakub Voracek, and JVR. Likely slotting in on a line with Patrick and Voracek, JVR will provide the Flyers with something they missed last season, a scoring winger. He posted a career-high 36 goals last season for Toronto.
At 6’3″ 217lbs, van Riemsdyk also brings the element of size and power to the Flyers roster. In a league where speed now dominates, this attribute sometimes gets downplayed. However, being pushed around or easily forced out of the front of the net is never a good thing. JVR gives Philadelphia more of a presence in the rough and tough areas. Additionally, he improves the team’s powerplay, possibly leading to two dangerous PP units.
Term and Price Not an Issue
When we talk about free agency, the discussion rarely focusses on talent. Instead, we consume ourselves with the thought of cost and the term of a contract. As such, that is where most of the debate exists. In an ageist industry, such as sports, approaching 30 might as well mean approaching 70-years-old. Once a player hits his third decade, everyone speculates that his career will be on the decline shortly. Therefore, a large number of people cringe at the idea of signing someone in their late twenties and early thirties to a long-term contract. Not only could a franchise wind up regretting the deal two or three years in, but it could also prevent young players from getting an opportunity to play. Additionally, that cap space could be used somewhere else.
JVR will be 29 to start the season and reach 30 at the beginning of May. With a five-year deal in place, he will be on the Flyers until age 34. As we all know, the youth movement is in full swing in Philadelphia. Some may view this move as blocking the kids from getting NHL playing time. However, we must keep in mind that part of the current Flyers core is in the prime of their career. Van Riemsdyk joins the likes of Giroux, Voracek, and possibly Wayne Simmonds as players that would love to see a Stanley Cup Championship banner raised in Philadelphia during their tenure with the team.
As far as cap hit, $7 million does come off as a bit much at first glance. Unfortunately, that is the beast of free agency. Teams always end up overpaying to improve their team. However, signing van Riemsdyk to a deal of this magnitude does not put the Flyers back in “cap hell.” Even with committing $7 million to JVR this season, Ron Hextall still has over $14 million in cap space to play with. After this year, players such as Jori Lehtera, Michael Raffl, Jordan Weal, Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth, and Simmonds all come off the books. This still gives Hextall plenty of money to extend his players or explore outside options to continue improving this team.
At the end of the day, signing van Riemsdyk makes this team better right now. In turn, it does very little to jeopardize the franchise’s future.
What About Wayne?
The signing of van Riemsdyk does put the future of another player in question. As we know, Simmonds contract comes to an end next summer. This move makes his return Philadelphia less likely than ever. Not only are both JVR and Simmonds both power forwards, but Hextall also is not going to commit another long-term contract to a veteran.
A team signing James van Riemsdyk to big money probably doesn’t plan to also have Wayne Simmonds on its roster for long
— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) July 1, 2018
The most likely scenario is Hextall using Simmonds as a trade chip. The team could still use an upgrade at 3C, defense, and possibly a goalie. Regardless, the Flyers offseason just got interesting.