The Leafs might want to wait out a Van Riemsdyk trade

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Photo Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY SPORTS

At this point, we can probably consider the departure of James van Riemsdyk an inevitability. While he’s been the subject of gossip for many years now, at no point has he been the focal point of public trade talks to the extent he is right now. According to TSN Hockey Insider Darren Dreger, teams are aware of this, and they’re picking up the phones:


It’s an interesting situation, in the sense that the rumours have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As long as teams know that there’s a shot that he moves, teams will throw their own offers in just in case, which creates more speculation that he’ll move.

If I had to guess, this isn’t something that’s coming out of Toronto; Lou Lamoriello and the rest of Leafs management haven’t historically been the type to use the media in this fashion, or even want the media to know their business. Likely, there’s a team out there that believes that they’ll put up the best package, and is trying to encourage this to become a subject that Toronto’s war room spends a lot of time thinking about rather than ignoring.


That, or it’s an easy topic for the media to gossip about. It’s hard to blame them; if the Leafs were to make one more big “sell” move in the rebuild process, why wouldn’t it be van Riemsdyk? With 13 goals and 15 assists in 37 games, he’s on a 54+ point pace for his fifth consecutive season in a row. That’s not quite elite territory, but it’s more than the threshold for an offensive first liner. That makes him intriguing to teams, and his $4.25 million cap hit makes him an option for even those close to the ceiling.

But that contract is also something the Leafs themselves have to think about in the long run. This is the second-last year of said deal, leaving him due for an extension next July; a year where Tyler Bozak and Leo Komarov also become UFAs and William Nylander, Frederik Gauthier, Nikita Soshnikov, and Connor Carrick are just the headliners of the restricted free agent class. At 27-years-old, “JVR” will likely be looking to get his last big payday, a 6-8 year deal that gives him the last bit of financial security he’ll need.

Will that make sense for the Leafs, though? A player of his caliber is nice now, but he likely won’t be putting up the same offensive numbers into his 30s and his defensive side of the game leaves a lot to be desired. Moving on from him will make sense soon enough, and with players like Kasperi Kapanen and Brendan Leipsic looking to make the jump to the NHL sooner than later, cashing van Riemsdyk out instead of letting him walk is tempting.


But that doesn’t mean it has to happen right now. As long as teams believe that he is “for sale”, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get a substantial offer. Not to mention, he fits in well with Toronto’s high-event game, and if you’re going to use him to make a 1-for-1 move to help balance out the team, the odds aren’t in your favour to come out ahead. Last year’s Taylor Hall for Adam Larsson and PK Subban for Shea Weber deals have put a premium on skill-for-stability trades involving right side defencemen, which is, in theory, the most desired roster piece for the Leafs right now.

While its possible that Toronto can be the team that is able to shift the market back, it’s difficult to do so when your chip is a player that teams are starting to believe can be on the market. That’s the trap that both Bergevin and Chiarelli fell into in their deals; once it was known that they were “listening to offers” on their star talent, they had already lost.

Toronto’s most opportune time, should they choose to go that route, will likely be at this year’s draft. Teams will likely be scrambling after Las Vegas’ expansion selections, and with Alexander Radulov likely to be extended by the Montreal Canadians far before then, van Riemsdyk will likely be the best winger with the best contract value on the market for acquisition. This way, as well, Toronto doesn’t have to worry about exposing Connor Carrick to said Vegas Draft, which any trade for a big-minutes defenceman will do, unless they choose to go for the just-as-risky “eight skater” protection list.

There will likely be a day when James van Riemsdyk plays for another NHL team, and it’s likely to come within the calendar year. But, unless an offer absolutely blows the Leafs away, passing on making that decision in the next couple of weeks is likely the right call. He’s a valuable offensive contributor, a steady face in the team’s roster-transiton, and appears to be helping a team on the rise; why rush to pull the trigger just for the sake of doing it?

  • Kevin

    The author makes a good point about waiting post-expansion to swing a deal for Van Riemsdyk. Teams will be looking for replacement wingers following expansion. However, the market for defence will be best (value wise) prior to expansion since most teams will be protecting only 3 defencemen. There will likely be an opportunity to grab a defensemen that would otherwise not be available in trade. That said, the Leafs will have to balance any potential return with the potential loss of Connor Carrick.

      • Kevin

        Carrick could become a legit 2nd pair RD, but right now he’s more suited to 3rd pairing minutes. I think Zaitsev is a 2nd pairing guy that can be subbed in on the 1st pairing in a pinch.

        • The Russian Rocket

          I could see Zaitsev as a second pair maybe but third pair is probably too low. He carries a lot of ice time for us and he was top pair on team Russia at the World Cup. I don’t think Babs and Russia’s coach would be that far off. I could be wrong though, why do you think he’s a 3rd pair?

          • Tecari

            To be fair Russia’s defense was likely the worst in the tournament, he belonged on the top line there because he had no one behind him. On the leafs, again he has no one really behind him, the leafs RHD is very weak.

            The Rielly – Zaitsev pair is quite strong offensively, but I don’t trust them in their own zone at all, as an overall the Gardiner – Carrick pair is clearly our best pair. You can argue that Carrick is slightly sheltered and is boosted by Gardiner, which is valid, but I think it’s countered by how often Zaitsev is on the ice with the Matthiews line so it’s fairly even in that aspect. I am simply not convinced Zaitsev is any better than Carrick.

          • Stan Smith

            I agreed with your statement up until you said you weren’t convinced Zaitsev was any better than Carrick. Are you watching the same Zaitsev I have been? He is so far ahead of Carrick in his development it isn’t even close. I’m not convinced as of yet that Carrick is good enough to even stick to the lineup, whereas the question about Zaitsev is whether or not he is a first pairing guy.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        Zaitsev is a legitimate top pairing defenceman. Carrick like Zaitsev is in his first full year of NHL hockey at the age of 22. I think you could be right on Carrick. The biggest concern I see with the Leaf’s defence is overall they are a little on the light side and not inclined to bodycheck. Most of our D-men prefer to stick check. This makes the cycle very attractive to opposing teams.

        • The Russian Rocket

          On average, I agree, most of them don’t hit but I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised with Zaitsev’s ability to take the body. He’s got a respectable 80 hits which is 4th on the team. 5th only has 54 (soshnikov) so it’s a steep drop after him.

  • LukeDaDrifter

    According to one of the best in the business — ESPN’s Nick Silva, reported, LukeWarmWater has inquired about purchasing the Toronto Raptors.

    Does this mean the Raptors are up for sale?

    PS… LukeWarmwater said after hearing the asking price he told Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment he needed to check with his wife and would get back to them. WarmWater was last scene hopping over backyard fences with his wife in hot pursuit.

    • LukeWarmWater

      Brother Luke I’m about to close the deal with Rogers, Bell and Larry. Trust me thanks to my training at Steve Nash fitness center I’m barely able to keep ahead of her. The tough part is not falling on all the snow and ice in Snowville, B.C. a.k.a. Vancouver.

      Btw I will go over the luxury tax and deprive the grand kids of that money as I want to bring an N.B.A. championship to the big smoke. On a serious note the Raptors are the one team that we see eye to eye on although she figures I move around more and yell at the officials more than Dwayne Casey. As she is the league commissioner I’ve received numerous fines.

    • LukeDaDrifter

      Carrick is not exempt. He does need to play 7 more games to meet the exposure requirements. Oddly enough Corrado would only need to play 30 games and be signed for next year to meet the exposure requirements. Hunwick and Polack would need to be signed for next year to quality.

  • Pete Smith

    I think it depends on the return. It would have to be an NHL roster player to move him while the Leafs are in the playoff picture. (I think.) But teams wanting JVR probably wouldn’t want to give that up in season either. Most likely he gets moved in the offseason, but it could be before the expansion draft too. Teams are going to want to maximize their assets, and a team (like Minnesota) may have to expose somebody they’d rather not. Draft could happen too. But I doubt he starts next season in blue and white.

  • STAN

    Jef, Jeff, Jeff. Fourth paragraph “…fifth consecutive season in a row”. As for JvR, I think they get the most for him at the trade deadline, with a team top-heavy in defence looking for some offensive punch.

      • LukeDaDrifter

        There are pro’s and con’s about why, when, where, for who, on trading JVR. People are only guessing and speculating on what sort of contract JVR might be looking for in a year and a half. By this time next year the Leafs will have an idea on what JVR is looking for. If they don’t like it then he should still be a valuable trading chip at that point.

        This whole expansion draft thing is hard to get a handle on. So far GM’s seem to be kicking tires on what is out there and at what price. One wonders after the first trade is made if the dam will burst as everyone scrambles to get one of the few top four D-man that may be available. Are the GM’s under the expansion squeeze sitting back waiting for calls? I haven’t heard of any yet shopping their guys around. Who are these teams that keep inquiring about JVR? That information would nice to know. It may be teams that have nothing we want.

        We need to be a little careful on moving forwards.

        The Leafs must expose 2 forwards in the expansion draft. As it stands today these are the players who meet the expansion draft exposure requirement. Kadri, JVR, Bozak, Komarov, and Martin.

        Brown should be included as he only needs 3 more games played to be eligible to be exposed. Smith needs 12 more games. Laich could be exposed but the Leafs would have to sign him for next year, which is not likely.

  • Capt.jay

    Trading JVR for one defenseman is not going to fix the third period let downs. That’s like saying one person is then responsible for it happening. Last game it was Reilly who was floating around Center ice when Ovechkin scored the OT winner. He’d still be on the team if a trade was made, what then?

    • LukeDaDrifter

      All teams leading at the or near end of the game have the same problem. Opposing teams have their defence playing up looking to generate a goal. Defending teams must play very sound positional hockey to stop the other guys from getting a good scoring chance. I believe it takes a lot of experience to do this well. Even then sometimes it is impossible to stop. Because of all the rookies in the lineup lacking this type of experience Babcock’s choices are somewhat limited. One can see we have trouble moving the puck out of our own end from the beginning of the season when other teams forecheck hard. It is slowly getting better. We have a lot of guys who play a high octane offensive game. To suddenly ask them to switch over to a neutral zone trap, will take time for them to learn. In their past someone else on their respective teams took over those roles. I believe they will learn to do it. As for Rielly being caught at center ice when Ovechkin scored well,… that’s three on three for you.

  • Marcel DePass

    Carrick will most likely be the defenseman they want to expose in the draft, as he’s about to fulfill the required games. Corrado is the better player in his own end, and probably won’t play enough games to take the risk away from losing other valued peices.
    JVR’S value might be highest prior to the draft, where teams have realized their needs, and position themselves for the expansion draft. But there’s also something to be said for dictating the market early, especially for teams who think they’re one piece away from a solid run (Colombus). I agree though that the trade is inevitable, just by the sheer numbers.
    I think it’s safe to say that Brown has established himself as a productive and dependable winger, one whom Babcock will vouch for, who needs a deal. Then Zaitsev will want a well deserved extension, a top 4 right shot defenseman are not cheap. The next year will be Nylander and Kapanen, the year after that Matthew’s huge deal and Marner’s substantial deal. All this doesn’t take into account if we get another top 4 defenseman through trade, they need to be paid too. Gotta be wise now.

  • Nick

    The leafs need to keep building for the future and should trade JVR, Bozak and Komarov for assets young enough to be exempt from the expansion draft whether it is prospects or draft picks. I don’t think the current front office will act like previous regimes and try to push just to make the playoffs with a mediocre team but I do hope they go full out on the rebuild rather than keep veterans that have diminishing value as time passes in order to try to be marginally better this year and next when they realistically are not going to be Stanley cup contenders. I don’t think the value of the influence of the veterans on the young players outweighs the benefit of continuing to rebuild especially with Babcock being the coach. This latest run while good for the development of the young players is bad for the leafs in the long run. They would be best off trading the veterans sooner than later, finishing low in the standings again to get another good draft pick, clearing payroll room to try to sign free agents to short term deals for next year then trading those signings next year for more picks and prospects. When they are loaded with youth in a couple years they could pull off the trades to fill holes and be a true contender with more youth ready to step in on cheap deals when they run into salary cap issues after signing more of their young core to long term deals. I believe this is the front office’s plan and hope that moderate short term success does not derail it.

  • LukeWarmWater

    As the brother pontificates the expansion draft complicates things mightily as teams try to figure out their rosters. A good time to move J.V.R. might be when a club that sees itself as cup contender has one of its top forwards go down with an injury. You would likely get their first pick and a top prospect, preferably a defence man in their system. As I’ve stated thanks to our strong management team, leaping Lou is playing with a strong hand in this poker game and will likely keep his cards close to the vest.
    It is indeed a good position to be in as leaf fans can finally appreciate what a top flight management team can do for a team in what appears to be a shorter period of time than we thought.

    I was very impressed with Bracco’s performance in the junior tournament as he is just another prospect to add to that stock pile we are accumulating.

  • Stan Smith

    It all boils down to one simple question. Does what you get for JVR make you a better team in the long run? If so you make the deal. If not you don’t. This offseason does bring opportunities that aren’t usually there, so other offers will probably arise.