I’ll start this post with a disclaimer: don’t shoot the messenger. I’m not saying this story is true, only that the rumor exists.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos tweeted the following yesterday:
Wow. If that’s true, it’s extreme. Well, sort of. It makes sense for the Leafs to aggressively pursue change this off-season. They have a new team president in Brendan Shanahan and since, to the surprise of many, GM Dave Nonis and coach Randy Carlyle were retained, it’s easy to read between the lines. If management isn’t going anywhere, players are.
Shopping captain Dion Phaneuf? Perfectly reasonable idea, especially with the entirety of his seven-year, $49-million contract remaining. Trading up to try and draft Aaron Ekblad? Sure. Even the rumors about Jake Gardiner and Nazem Kadri aren’t mind-boggling. Not that I’d rush to move either player, but each is as enigmatic as he is talented, so moving one for a useful return wouldn’t be sacrilege.
If Kypreos’ report is true word for word, however, I draw the line at James van Riemsdyk. If Toronto is actively shopping every player except Jonathan Bernier, Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Morgan Rielly, deductive reasoning tells us JVR is on the block. Not just available, but actively being shopped. Whoa, daddy. And since his modified no-trade clause doesn’t activate until 2016-17, there’s nothing he can do about it.
Everything about the 2012 trade that netted JVR for Luke Schenn has been a coup for Toronto. Van Riemsdyk has displayed great chemistry with Kessel and he’s learned to use his big frame as a weapon in tight spaces around the opposing goal. He’s fresh off a 30-goal season and his 18 goals in lockout-shortened 2012-13 pro-rated to 31. He’s 25 years old, with the pedigree to keep improving, as he was the No. 2 overall pick in 2007.
And with four years left at a $4.25-million cap hit, van Riemsdyk is one of the NHL’s best bargains. Even if the Leafs are rebuilding, this is just the kind of cap-friendly deal you want to build around. For some perspective, here are the 2014-15 cap hits of every other 30-goal scorer in the NHL this season, excluding restricted free agent Ryan Johansen and unrestricted free agent Jarome Iginla:
- Alex Ovechkin, $9.54 million
- Sidney Crosby, $8.70 million
- Corey Perry, $8.63 million
- Ryan Getzlaf, $8.25 million
- Phil Kessel, $8.00 million
- Patrick Marleau, $6.67 million
- Patrice Bergeron, $6.50 million
- Joe Pavelski, $6.00 million
- Patrick Sharp, $5.90 million
- Alexander Steen, $5.80 million
- Tyler Seguin, $5.75 million
- Jeff Skinner, $5.73 million
- Martin St-Louis, $5.63 million
- Jason Pominville, $5.60 million
- Marian Hossa, $5.28 million
- Jamie Benn, $5.25 million
- Max Pacioretty, $4.50 million
- James van Riemsdyk, $4.25 million
- Chris Kunitz, $3.85 million
Methinks JVR gives the Leafs good bang for their buck through 2017-18. This is the type of contract and player you dream of acquiring, not trading away. It’s thus difficult to believe Toronto is shopping him. If so, Nonis needs an intervention.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin