Leading up to this year’s trade deadline, Philadelphia Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk was frequently mentioned as a trade candidate.
Signed last August to a six-year, $25.5-million contract extension, the 22-year-old van Riemsdyk began the season well, with 16 points in his first 20 games, but his production fell off as a variety of injuries – mid-section muscular tear, “banged-up knee” and a nagging hip injury that could require off-season surgery – took their toll.
It was mid-January when van Riemsdyk’s name began popping up frequently in the rumor mill, tying him to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were believed to be willing to part with defenseman Luke Schenn to land him.
Not even a denial from a Flyers official and a subsequent concussion sustained by van Riemsdyk silenced the speculation he could be on his way to Toronto, or perhaps another club willing to part with a top-pair defenseman.
Flyers GM Paul Holmgren resisted the temptation to move van Riemsdyk by the deadline. Several days later, the winger broke his left foot blocking a shot, knocking him out of the lineup for the remainder of the regular season.
Entering this season, the knock on van Riemsdyk, the second overall pick in the 2007 draft, was he was developing more slowly than anticipated, especially in comparison to Patrick Kane, who was selected first overall in the same draft by the Chicago Blackhawks.
Still, van Riemsdyk posted a respectable 21 goals and 40 points in 75 games last season – only his second in the NHL – and went on a tear in the 2011 playoffs, with seven goals in 11 games against the Buffalo Sabres and Boston Bruins.
Between that and his promising start to this season, van Riemsdyk seemed poised for a breakout performance as a power forward, until the injuries limited him to only 43 games.
Prior to van Riemsdyk’s recent injury, John Boruk of CSNPhilly.com suggested time “is now creeping up on JVR,” saying he still doesn’t know what the Flyers have in the young winger.
Boruk wondered if Holmgren might use van Riemsdyk as a bargaining chip to replenish the Flyers defense corps if Matt Carle, Nicklas Grossman and/or Pavel Kubina depart via free agency and especially if Chris Pronger doesn’t recover from his post-concussion symptoms.
Despite his new contract (which kicks in next season) and his injury woes, interest in van Riemsdyk was high, which bodes well for his trade value if Holmgren were to shop him.
The Flyers are also deep with good young forwards such as Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read and Sean Couturier, so Holmgren could afford to move van Riemsdyk if need be to bolster his blueline depth.
Much can happen between now and mid-June that will determine Holmgren’s future roster moves, but don’t be surprised if van Riemsdyk’s name pops up again in trade rumors once the playoffs end.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and Kukla’s Korner.