The Philadelphia Flyers will be undergoing a retool during the offseason to be competitive in 2022-23. Interim head coach Mike Yeo has been playing players such as Noah Cates and Ronnie Attard recently in addition to a relatively younger lineup. Due to the club’s struggles and injuries to several core players this season, the Flyers were sellers at the trade deadline, which resulted in more opportunities for inexperienced players at the NHL level to become more seasoned.
Based on general manager Chuck Fletcher’s comments about the retooling of the roster, the goal is for players such as Cates and Attard to compete in training camp this summer for a depth position on the Flyers roster heading into next year. One of the players whose future with the organization is unknown is James van Riemsdyk. He has one year remaining on his contract with an average annual value (AAV) of $7 million, which is a lot of money to pay a player whose production is waning. Let’s take a look at why the Flyers should move on from the veteran forward during the offseason.
van Riemsdyk’s Hefty Salary
The Flyers can acquire or sign another player who is capable of posting comparable numbers to van Riemsdyk and will not be earning nearly as much money annually as the soon-to-be 33-year-old Philadelphia forward. His strength is getting in front of the net to create his offensive production akin to Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers. The Flyers veteran utilizes his 6-foot-3, 217-pound frame to battle with opposing forwards and defenders in the offensive zone to create scoring chances off of rebound opportunities and deflections from shots by his teammates.
van Riemsdyk’s $7 million AAV would be justified if he was more productive offensively. Another reason to trade him is that Joel Farabee and Sean Courtier will begin to see salary increases next year. Farabee sees a significant AAV increase from $925,000 to $5 million annually until the end of the 2027-28 year while Courtier’s salary will rise from $4.33 million to $7.75 million for the next eight seasons. Cam Atkinson, who is the same age as van Riemsdyk, has been far more productive this year for the Flyers. While Atkinson looks to have been impacted offensively by the trade of Claude Giroux, he has provided more value for the Flyers and has a lesser AAV than van Riemsdyk ($5.875).
van Riemsdyk’s Play is Declining Based on His Statistics
van Riemsdyk is a good secondary player, as he has scored more than 25 goals in only five of his 13 seasons. His 18 goals and 13 assists in 71 games this year are less than the totals he had during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons when he played 66 games in consecutive seasons. His numbers have been affected because the Flyers are not good, but his offensive production suggests a decline in his play.
Related: Farewell, James van Riemsdyk
van Riemsdyk’s most productive seasons were with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His 48 points during 2018-19 have been his highest during his career with the Flyers, and he succeeded that total during four of his six years with the Maple Leafs. Due to playing in every game so far in 2021-22, his offensive statistics such as shots and total individual expected goals (ixG) are high among the roster, but he is likely to set a career-low in assists this year while the amount of goals he will finish with is on par with his total during the previous two seasons. His production is not adequate for his $7 million AAV.
Options For Flyers to Move on From van Riemsdyk
The options to move on from van Riemsdyk, whether it be by trade or a buyout, are not ideal for the Flyers, but the team is tying up a lineup spot with a player who is a prime candidate to be moved based on the retooling Fletcher wants the roster to undergo this offseason. Fletcher will get an underwhelming return for him, and the organization will need to absorb some of his earnings in a trade. Whether it be via trade or buyout, the options do not benefit the club in ridding itself of his contract without absorbing a portion of his pay.
Due to his salary, GM Fletcher will encounter some difficulty in finding another team willing to acquire van Riemsdyk. The Flyers will need to absorb some of his salary – perhaps as much as $3.5 million – to facilitate a trade during the offseason. The return for a 33-year-old forward who is regressing will not be outstanding either. The Flyers may get back a bottom-six forward or a mid-round future draft pick.
If the Flyers decide to buy out van Riemsdyk’s contract, he still has a $4.33 million charge to the cap for next season and a $1.33 million charge in 2023-24 with $2.66 million in savings. Travis Konecny (25), Travis Sanheim (26), and Ivan Provorov (25) are all more appealing for other franchises to acquire via trade from the Flyers. Sanheim, like van Riemsdyk, is due to be a UFA after 2022-23 but is younger than the forward and only has a $4.675 AAV. Konecny and Provorov each have multiple seasons before their contracts expire, which is a preference other GMs would like to have in players they trade for (from ‘Flyers’ next captain? Chuck Fletcher criticism? What’s the key to rebuilding? Mailbag’, The Athletic, 3/26/22).
The Flyers will be trading more players this offseason in an effort to gain cap relief. The hope for management is that with a retooled roster and improved health, the Flyers can be in the hunt for a wild-card spot at minimum in the Eastern Conference during the 2022-23 season. Moving on from van Riemsdyk would be a part of the roster retooling and gives the Flyers more cap relief if another club absorbs his entire salary, but that is unlikely to occur. At worst, the Flyers keep van Riemsdyk for the final year of his contract, but they still need to find cap relief which results in the trading of one or more other players on the roster such as Konecny, Sanheim, or Provorov. The bottom line is van Riemsdyk’s future with the Flyers will need to be addressed this summer because he no longer provides satisfactory value offensively based upon his current earnings.