Acquisition of van Riemsdyk Forces Leafs Into More Problems

James van Riemsdyk Flyers

The addition of James van Riemsdyk may have addressed a need for the Leafs, but it created problems at the same time (Icon SMI)

Everyone has been made well aware of the type of player James van Riemsdyk is over the last few months. Size, speed and finesse are all attributes that he will bring to the Toronto Maple Leafs when the season begins in October according to general manager Brian Burke.

“We are really excited by the parts of the game that James will bring to the Leafs,”  Burke said in a statement after the trade. “He will provide speed, size, and finesse to our top two lines and we know that he fits those needs that we have wanted to address for some time. We thank Luke for his tremendous on and off ice contributions to our organization. He’s a true professional and we wish him the very best in Philadelphia.”

The Leafs certainly did address one of their most crucial needs up front, but that doesn’t necessarily make this trade an all-around good swap. It pleases fans, management and the coaches, but how should fellow Leafs forwards looking to maintain their ice time feel about it?

Prior to the trade that saw van Riemsdyk join the team on Saturday, the Leafs’ top two lines looked something like this:

Joffrey Lupul – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin

These groupings worked relatively well for much of the season. Lupul, Bozak and Kessel all had career years while the second line had a nice year offensively with the exception of Kulemin. Even despite his offensive struggles, Kulemin was able to maintain his spot on the second line through solid team play and nice work in his own end and in the neutral zone. Now the problem is that someone will have to take the fall this October unless head coach Randy Carlyle plans to place van Riemsdyk in the bottom-six, which everyone can agree would not be a wise decision whatsoever.

It’s difficult to judge where van Riemsdyk will slide into the lineup since the off-season has hardly begun. The summer is so young in fact that the free agent market doesn’t open for another week. Because of that, there is still plenty of time for the Leafs to swing a deal to bring in a defenceman to fill the void left by Schenn through trading away one of the less impactful top-six forwards currently on the roster.

Both MacArthur and Kulemin have seen their names floating around as potential trade bait for the last few months and rumours including those two have only increased with the addition of van Riemsdyk. One would have to think that one or both of them will be headed out of town soon, which would likely be because the Leafs now have at least one expendable top-six winger. Hence ‘at least.’

Lost in all of this commotion is prospect Nazem Kadri. The 21-year-old has struggled to stick with the big club over the last two seasons, having scored just eight goals and 19 points in 50 games. Many believe he could be one of the next players headed out of Toronto given that there is no longer a suitable role for him on the Leafs. Perhaps he would be able to mesh with van Riemsdyk’s style and feed off of him, but unless one or both of MacArthur or Kulemin are sent packing, he likely won’t be given the chance to play with van Riemsdyk any time soon.

It’s been made clear that one or more of MacArthur, Kulemin and Kadri probably won’t be in the blue and white of the Maple Leafs next season. If they all are, it’s unclear just how well an over-abundance of top-six forwards will work out given that some would be forced to play on the third line, where they would receive minimal ice time and would likely be placed in more of a checking role.

Even now that van Riemsdyk is a Leaf, Burke has various holes to fill including one on defence and another in net. You have to think that a top-six winger will be leaving town soon enough, all thanks to the arrival of van Riemsdyk.

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Lukas Hardonk

Lukas Hardonk

Contributing Editor at The Hockey Writers
Lukas, a student at the University of Ottawa, covers the Toronto Maple Leafs on a part-time basis for The Hockey Writers. Contact Lukas at lukas.hardonk@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter, @LukasHardonk.
Lukas Hardonk
Really a warm-up-like goal there by JVR. Not to take away from him, but Bishop needs to give more of an effort than that. #Leafs - 20 mins ago
Lukas Hardonk

14 Comments

  1. Leafs Forever says:

    FIrst Line-Lupul,Bozak, Kessel, Phaneuf,Gardener
    Second-JVR,Kadri/Bozak, Tyler Biggs
    Third-kulemen,Grabo,Matt Frattin

  2. You don’t need to worry about where he will fit in because Carlyle is going to put JVR in the middle between Lupal and Kessel. Bozak will be centering the third line between Kadri and Frattin and most or all of LACK, with any luck; will be jettisoned from this team.

  3. now that Edmonton drafted Yakapov i think they wouldnt mind parting with Hall or Gagne. Hall is injury prone so i think a trade that includes maybe Kadri and franson with some picks could get him. Trade Bozak and Clarke MacArthur and some picks and sign parros shultz and prust
    Joffery Lupul – JVR – Phil Kessel
    hall – Mikhail Grabovski – Nikolai Kulemin
    prust – connolly – armstrong/frattin
    parros steckle brown
    phanuef Gunnersson
    shultz gardiner
    liles reiley
    komi

  4. Yeah… this isn’t a problem at all, the problem is that *even with* JVR two of Bozak, MacArthur and Kulemin will still be on the second line… playing well above where they would be on a deep team…

    • dodgermusic says:

      JVR is a 2nd line player at best. He is not a center. He is a 20/20 player, he is not a 70pts player. You are going to be very, very disappointed thinking of him like that.

  5. Quinn Murphy says:

    What do Leafs fans think of this roster:

    http://capgeek.com/cap-calculator/roster.php?id=8335

    Im assuming a trade for Luongo actually happens and involves Kulemin, Connolly (Cap dump plus decent bottom 6 player when healthy) and a decent prospect like McKegg going the other way

  6. JVR Grabovski Kadri gives me goosebumps

    • dodgermusic says:

      Get your head out of the clouds. This kid was not able to stay on the Leafs for 3 years running on the 3rd line. Now you have brought him up to the 2nd line, you look like an idiot. The kid is not an NHL player. Slow, weak shot, too skinny.

  7. Im a Leaf fan and i would be the first to admit theat neither Bozak or MacArthur are top 6 forwards on most GOOD teams. I like them both but lets face it, Bozak is not a 1st line centre and MacArthur on a 3rd or 4th line is probably pretty realistic. So if JVR bumps a player down the line then so be it, im ok with that as long as his play warrants it.

  8. Well, if MacArthur or Kulemin is traded, then there’s no worries and Toronto made a nice deal (I can’t say I think much of Schenn, and I feel Philly got the short end of this particular trade, but time will tell). Plus, the Leafs will likely go for a FA D-man or will target one in any trade involving those listed above. If they keep everyone, I’d assume van Riesdyk plays third line and is matched against other team’s top lines along with Connolly centering him. That’s two very good penalty killers. The question will always be “can Connolly stay healthy,” and I think van Riemsdyk can help protect his center if they are paired. If they land Luongo too, they are in decent shape – depending on what they give up to acquire him, of course.

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