The Toronto Maple Leafs are still working to grow their team. James van Riemsdyk is a player of interest, no matter what: he’s consistently put up good numbers throughout his career, and he’s the Leafs’ top non-rookie scorer whose contract expires the season after next.
That makes him a potential trade target. He’ll be 29 when it’s time for his new deal, which is about starting to get up there in hockey years. Then you look at who the Leafs are building around right now - present-day teenagers and young 20-somethings - and is there a fit?
Or is there a possibility for a trade? Via Elliotte Friedman’s 30 Thoughts (#10):
A year ago, teams asked about James van Riemsdyk and were told he was not available. Now they’re being told, "If you’re serious, ante up." What it comes down to is this: van Riemsdyk is an unrestricted free agent after next season, and can be extended July 1. At some point, the Maple Leafs will decide if they are going to meet his price.
Van Riemsdyk is a scorer, he’s going to cash in somewhere. Toronto’s cap situation is pretty good for a couple of years, until the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander need their next contracts.
So that will be the decision. If they decide to deploy their wealth elsewhere, it’s going to be on the blueline. Van Riemsdyk could get you that help. But his value drops if you’re trading him with free-agency looming. So that’s why I think it’s gone from "No," to "What have you got for us?"
Van Riemsdyk’s current contract is six-year deal worth an annual average value of $4.25 million, signed after he put up 40 points in 75 games for the Philadelphia Flyers. He’s easily been good value for that, but is he going to be looking for a bigger payday?
Probably - and so is the Leafs’ trio of rookies, only one of whom, Nylander, will need a new deal at the same time as van Riemsdyk.
The Leafs won’t be in a bad situation cap-wise by that time, though. All of their buried salary will be off the books after this season, and the only real hiccup is going to be fitting Nathan Horton’s $5.3 million under the cap before it can be whisked off to LTIR. If the Leafs want to keep van Riemsdyk, they can probably make room for him.
The question here is: should they? Is an older van Riemsdyk worth extending, or would it make more sense for the Leafs to try to trade him for assets in another area of need - especially if the Leafs are only looking for really good offers?