The Maple Leafs have reportedly been getting calls regarding James van Riemsdyk’s availability, but it could take a summer blockbuster for the winger to be dealt. Meanwhile, the struggles of Connor Hellebuyck could have the Jets in the mix for a veteran backup.
It’s been a month since Toronto Maple Leafs left winger James van Riemsdyk first surfaced in this season’s NHL rumors. Though there was no indication the Leafs were shopping the 27-year-old, there was some talk that perhaps they might eventually go that route.
The van Riemsdyk speculation subsequently died until Saturday, when Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos raised the subject again. While claiming the Leafs weren’t shopping the winger and hadn’t received any firm offers, Kypreos reported teams were inquiring and the Leafs are willing to listen.
With a year remaining on his contract, van Riemsdyk is eligible for unrestricted free agency in July 2018. With an annual salary-cap hit of $4.25 million on his current deal, he could seek a long-term deal worth around $6-million annually from the Leafs.
Having tallied 12 goals and 22 points in 30 games, van Riemsdyk is among the Leafs’ leading scorers. He’s also on pace to crack the 30-goal and 60-point plateaus for the second time in his career.
The Leafs currently have just over $29 million invested in eight players for 2018-19. That provides them plenty of room to re-sign van Riemsdyk to a hefty raise. However, they must also ensure they have sufficient long-term cap room to re-sign rising young stars Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander over the next couple of years.
Should the Leafs shop van Riemsdyk, that move probably won’t happen until the off-season. Kypreos believes they’ll want a premium return comparable to what they received last year from the Pittsburgh Penguins for Phil Kessel. Efforts to move him will be hampered by his 10-team no-trade list.
JETS SEEKING VETERAN BACKUP HELP?
In only his second NHL season, goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is getting the bulk of the starts with the Winnipeg Jets. The 23-year-old enters this week with less than stellar numbers, posting a record of 12-10-1 with a 2.67 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage.
Inconsistent defense, a penalty kill among the league’s worst (75.4 percent) and a gruelling schedule from Nov. 23 to Dec. 11 that had the Jets play 11 games in 19 nights is partly to blame for Hellebuyck’s stats. However, the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson believes the youngster doesn’t yet look like a 60-game starter.
Citing the Jets’ history of shaky goaltending. Matheson thinks their best bet is to pursue a reliable veteran with some term remaining on his contract before next June’s expansion draft. Hellebuyck could then go into a backup role. He suggests Jimmy Howard of the Detroit Red Wings, Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins as possible trade options.
Bishop, however, is eligible for UFA status in July. He also has a no-movement clause. Even if he was willing to waive it to go to Winnipeg, the usually cost-conscious Jets probably wouldn’t re-sign him.
Fleury has an 18-team list of preferred trade destinations, but the Jets might not be on it. Same goes for Howard and his 10-team list.
The Jets will likely ride out this season with their current tandem of Hellebuyck and backup Michael Hutchison. Their performances will determine if management feels the need next summer to pursue an upgrade in goal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly 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 The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.