It’s no secret former second overall pick James van Riemsdyk has struggled as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
After scoring 15 goals and 20 assists in his rookie year, van Riemsdyk has struggled this season, notching only four assists in 15 games. van Riemsdyk has already been a healthy scratch four times this year and has watched players from the Flyers AHL affiliate team, Eric Wellwood in one instance, play in his place.
van Riemsdyk’s struggles are partly due to his play and partly due to the number of strong forwards the Flyers have. On a healthy Flyers roster, there are at least six forwards ahead of him (Danny Briere, Jeff Carter, Scott Hartnell, Mike Richards, Claude Giroux and one of Ville Leino or Nikolai Zherdev, if not both). There’s simply no room for van Riemsdyk to play himself out of a slump on a roster like this. On most other teams, van Riemsdyk would probably still dress, although on third or fourth lines.
It gets stickier.
According to CapGeek.com, van Riemsdyk’s cap hit is $1.64 Million per season (next year is the final year of his entry level contract). That’s a lot of cash to be a healthy scratch four times in this young season. Claude Giroux’s new contract confirms van Riemsdyk has officially been passed on the depth chart. Wispers of a contract extension for Ville Leino might suggest another forward moving ahead of him too. That is, if both scenarios haven’t already happened.
With already $57.5 Million committed to next season’s salary cap (not including potential rookie bonuses of players like Sergei Bobrovsky and Claude Giroux that would count against next year’s cap – similar to the Chicago bonus issues from last season) and a number of third/fourth line players making similar salaries (Ian Laperierre, Jody Shelley and Blair Betts – all of whom are better suited for those kinds of roles), you have to wonder what kind of future van Riemsdyk may have in Philadelphia this year and beyond.
This is the part that interests me most. What should the Flyers do with van Riemsdyk?
The kid needs to play in order to develop. Sitting in the press box isn’t the answer in this particular case. Do the Flyers assign van Riemsdyk to the AHL to play more hockey? Although it would help him develop, it wouldn’t solve Philadelphia’s cap issues next year.
Suppose the Flyers opt to trade van Riemsdyk. What’s his value? It’s difficult to determine his value with a small body of work. Here’s a former top prospect that’s scored 39 points in 94 career NHL games. Not exactly superstar numbers, although I suspect several teams would have interest in van Riemsdyk if he were available. After all, he’s only 21 years old with a huge potential and a lot of high-end skill.
I’m not suggesting van Riemsdyk is at all available (I’m not an “insider” after all…), but a potential trade could solve several problems for the Flyers. They could use more organizational depth (ie. quality prospects) and might be able to acquire a mid-to-late first round draft pick for van Riemsdyk (pure speculation on my part), in addition to clearing cap space to potentially resign some of their upcoming UFAs/RFAs (Leino, Darroll Powe, Sean O’Donnell, Brian Boucher and others). Maybe I’m way off on van Riemsdyk’s value, but you get my point.
More and more I get the feeling van Riemsdyk is the odd man out in Philly. Now, that’s just my opinion. It will be interesting to see how Philadelphia handles this situation.
What do you think the Flyers should do with van Riemsdyk?