Next up in our exit interviews for the Leafs’ 2015-16 season we have players from all over the spectrum, as we take a look at James van Riemsdyk, Milan Michalek, and Connor Carrick.
We’ll probably be quick here, as none of these players put in significant time with Toronto this season. But the future of each of these guys with the club needs to be looked at, and of course we still have to rank them under the Smart Glasses Dubas Scale.
James van Riemsdyk
Something we seem to forget in the post-mortem of this past Leafs season is that they basically punched in most of the schedule without arguably their best player (or at least most talented scorer).
Van Riemsdyk was fine out of the gate despite some concerns his offence was a bit Kessel-driven, and he clipped right along at his usual pace as basically a 30-30 guy. Then just after Christmas he broke his foot, and didn’t play another game after that.
There are obviously some questions over whether his setbacks in rehab were more so “the tank is going too well”, but either way, he should be right as rain come training camp. Then it’ll be interesting to see how the kids – notably Nylander – who made such an impact over the last few weeks, will benefit from having an elite scorer like that in the lineup next season.
We’ve obviously discussed this at length a billion times, but van Riemsdyk’s contract is insanely team-friendly, which also makes it quite trade-friendly. Since he’s such an established player, there’s been much talk over whether his trajectory and the Leafs’ are aligned (sort of like the Stamkos debate), and if it might make sense to ship him off for blue-line or goaltending help. [If you’ve been around the site before, you’ve probably seen us toss out names like Shattenkirk, Vatanen, Trouba, Andersen, and so on.]
But until we get wind of something like that in the works, it’s safe to say van Riemsdyk is simply just a solid piece of the Leafs and will continue to be a top line winger for them over the next two years. In fact, until his injury he’d been showing some major improvement in terms of his puck-possession game under Babcock, making him even more of a key cog.
This one is sort of tough because of the injury, but like I mentioned, van Riemsdyk was on pace for another nice offensive season and seemed to be rounding his game out beyond that. In terms of his performance he was as good as can be expected, and then his injury helped the Leafs get a 20% chance at Matthews. Win-win. Four and a half Kyles out of five because I don’t believe in perfect scores.
Michalek was short-term salary dump in the Phaneuf trade, and like Greening and Cowen, is unlikely to be in the team’s plans beyond next summer when his contract expires. That said, like Greening, he isn’t necessarily a write-off and can likely still contribute as a bottom sixer with offensive upside. I mean, it seems this past season went off the rails mostly due to injury, but let’s keep in mind this guy put up 30+ point seasons the two years prior.
Again, beyond the upcoming final year of his contract, which rings in at $4-million, it’s difficult to see Michalek having much of a future with the Leafs. At 31, he’s definitely in decline.
At best, it would be nice to see him maybe ride some shooting luck next season and make himself worthy of a deadline rental.
Two Smart Kyles.
There probably isn’t much more to say about Carrick than I already have here last month, so I’ll just reiterate that he’s shown to be a great part to what seemed like a minor trade.
Now that we’ve had some time to evaluate the trade, it seems the Leafs were smart to key in on Carrick, as he was sort of a victim of circumstance with the Caps, a team in prime contention and loaded with depth on the blue-line for the long term. With a rebuilding team in Toronto he can immediately factor into their plans, and so far he’s shown why, with Babcock and his crew giving him plenty of opportunity already.
Now with the Marlies for their playoff run, Carrick will go into training camp in September and look to fight off some guys for a chance at sticking with the big club, and given his audition late this past season, I’d say his chances are good.
He’s a restricted free agent this summer, so the Leafs will have to get that straightened away, but after focusing in on him to be part of the Winnik deal and giving him such a load of responsibility right off the hop, I can’t see them parting with him soon. Carrick obviously still has to earn it again, but I think he slots in as a good depth option next season no matter what the team does this summer.
With how easily he fit into the NHL lineup right away, Carrick has exceeded expectations early, and I think he could be a long term piece. There’s essentially no real risk with having this kid in the organization right now, and the Leafs gave up nothing to get him. Four and a half Kyles.