The expansion draft is one season away, and Flyers fans already seem to have their minds made up as to who they want the Kraken to take from their team. While Shayne Gostisbehere is a popular choice, James van Riemsdyk’s name has been at the forefront of rumors and speculation when it comes to the Kraken’s pick from the Flyers.
There’s good reason as to why JvR’s name has been thrown around in that regard. His salary is pretty hefty for a bottom-six forward. Dig a little deeper however, and you find van Riemsdyk’s true value to the Flyers. His success on the powerplay is something this team desperately needs, especially after such a poor showing in the 2019-20 NHL playoffs.
The Flyers can only protect a certain amount of players from the Seattle Kraken during the upcoming expansion draft. With a couple no-movement/no-trade clauses guaranteed a protection spot and a few players that are shoo-ins to be protected, is there room to protect JvR? Better yet, should the Flyers protect van Riemsdyk? It’s time to look into the pros and cons of protecting him versus leaving him vulnerable to being scooped up.
James van Riemsdyk’s best years appear to be behind him. You can attribute that to a decline or the fact that he’s playing down the Flyers lineup. Regardless, he’s still in the top-three in goals scored over the last two seasons with 46. Only Sean Couturier (55) and Travis Konecny (48) have more goals over that span. Last season, JvR was only nine goals off of his career best of 36 from 2017-18 with Toronto.
One could argue that van Riemsdyk needs to play in a top-six role to achieve his past goal totals, but he still adds value to the bottom six especially with some solid complementary pieces. There’s reason to believe that if he can find himself in a top-six role JvR could get back to being a 30 goal scorer. Something the Flyers offense could definitely use moving forward.
There’s no two-ways about it, the Flyers powerplay was abysmal during the 2020 NHL playoffs. They went scoreless on the man advantage in the round robin (0/11.) They converted on four of the 28 attempts against the Montreal Canadiens, good for a 14.29% clip. The Islanders killed off all 13 penalties they committed against the Flyers, leaving Philadelphia to convert on only four of their 52 attempts in the playoffs.
James van Riemsdyk has the most powerplay goals for the Flyers over the last two seasons. His 12 powerplay tallies are tied with Sean Couturier for tops on the team. The closest to them is Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux with nine apiece. Sure, the argument can be made that JvR is the best scorer on a fledgeling powerplay. Goals are goals however, and van Riemsdyk has more than everyone on the Flyers sans Sean Couturier.
It’s no secret that James van Riemsdyk carries a hefty price tag. Seven million dollars is a lot of money to pay someone who’s consistently playing on your third or fourth line. It’s hard to justify a player like that making money like he does. Some of it could be out of his control. With younger players like Joel Farabee and Travis Konecny potentially taking up those top-six spots, JvR finds himself on the outside looking in.
The contract isn’t necessarily an albatross, but it definitely weighs heavier than it would if he were posting his typical 50-60 points per year. While not very far off, 40 and 48 point totals just aren’t going to cut it when you’re one of the highest paid players on the team.
The NHL is in a precarious position with everything surrouding COVID-19. With games being played without fans, that means little-to-no revenue for the owners. The cap is rumored to be staying flat for the next year to maybe three, which means owners are going to have some rough waters to navigate. Those waters become even rougher when you have young players due new deals, and older players making more than what their stats deem appropriate.
Unloading a contract like van Riemsdyk’s could be huge in the way of being able to re-sign key young players who are coming up on the end of their current deals. Keeping his seven million dollars in tact makes it that much more difficult.
van Riemsdyk isn’t getting any younger. On the other hand, the Flyers are. With his spot all-but solidified in the bottom-six of the lineup, it’s more in jeopardy than it is assured. The Flyers have a number of young, eager prospects that could be looking to make the jump to the NHL this season, if not next. With names like Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski already seeing time in the NHL, to newcomers Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski rumored to push for a spot out of camp, JvR’s days could be numbered as a Flyer.
Obviously nothing is set in stone when it comes to these prospects. You have guys like German Rubtsov that hasn’t really seized his opportunity just yet. Others like Bunnaman and Twarynski haven’t necessarily impressed, but weren’t disappointments either. Tie in the potential of Allison and Laczynski, you could easily fill the the bottom six and not require the services of JvR.
There are certainly positives to protecting and keeping James van Riemsdyk. You have a solid powerplay scorer and someone who can produce when paired with capable linemates. On the other hand, you have a tough contract to move during a flat cap era, creating the potential for problems when you need to re-sign their young talent in the coming years. Factor in the other players that will likely be protected, and it makes JvR’s spot on this team anything but certain.
Photo Credit – Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire