The Philadelphia Flyers have some work yet to be done in the offseason after failing to qualify for the postseason in consecutive seasons. The plan has yet to be revealed as to exactly what Chuck Fletcher meant by a retooling. You have to assume that means prominent players are headed out and some are expected to be brought in.
Fellow Flyers THW contributor Matt Grazel argues why the team should move on from James van Riemsdyk. To counter that argument, I believe van Riemsdyk, despite having a bad contract, is not one of those players for multiple reasons. He has just one year left on his deal and would cost assets to move out. If next season doesn’t work out, they will just be throwing away draft picks or a young talent to move a player that leads the team in goals and would further set back a possible rebuild.
van Riemsdyk’s Production Could Be Much Worse
Starting next season, van Riemsdyk will be the third-highest paid player on the Flyers. He will make $7 million in the final season of his five-year deal signed back in 2018. Unfortunately, the 2017-18 season was a career year that saw him score 36 goals and 11 on the power play in his final season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. His numbers were definitely inflated due to the company on that Maple Leafs team.
The Flyers aren’t as high-scoring of a team, so as expected, his offensive production declined. This is not to say that van Riemsdyk had bad seasons offensively, but he was never, and can’t ever be expected to be, a point-per-game player. He was always paid to score goals, and I think the Flyers were going to be happy signing him to that deal if he continued to do just that.
Let’s make something clear, van Riemsdyk is not a $7 million player, and I don’t know if he ever was. But the Flyers don’t have any game breakers on the team and they had to spread out the wealth in hopes of getting contributions from more players. Goalscorers are hard to come by, so it elevated the value of van Riemsdyk despite the contract not aging so well.
What I mean by his production could be much worse is that he is tied for the team lead in goals with 23, shared with Cam Atkinson. van Riemsdyk also ranks third on the team in points after Claude Giroux’s departure to the Florida Panthers. But as I stated prior to this, van Riemsdyk wasn’t signed for his playmaking ability, nor should anyone expect him to rack up assists.
Scoring goals is more unpredictable than just tallying points considering there could be two assists for every goal. Every goalscorer goes through slumps each and every season, so it’s easier to look at lack of production from a goalscorer and be critical compared to a playmaker.
van Riemsdyk tied for the team lead in points last season, seemingly out of nowhere, and that made up for the fact that he finished third on the team in goals. This season, he has continued to be a net-front presence and picked up his production a little bit in the second half of the season. Many will say he hasn’t played well when the team has needed it, but that doesn’t negate his production nonetheless.
His season splits aren’t terribly swayed, as he scored 10 goals in the first 39 games and 13 in the last 39. It may appear as if he has elevated his game considering his goals aren’t as spread out and there’s recency bias. He has scored three goals in the past two games and had a stretch scoring in three of four games at the end of March. van Riemsdyk also started the season with two goals in his first 24 games, which hasn’t helped his totals.
It Would Be an Unneeded Cost to Part Ways With van Riemsdyk
There’s three ways to move forward with van Riemsdyk for the Flyers — keep, trade, or buy out his contract. The latter will cost the Flyers and they wouldn’t be able to save enough money to add a player much more significant than what van Riemsdyk can bring to the table offensively. If they go that route and the Flyers don’t turn things around next season, it’s just wasted money staying on the books for extra years after he would’ve been gone.
Trading him would more than likely cost the Flyers a draft pick or prospect considering it isn’t an ideal contract and the team acquiring him would likely be a rebuilding one. The Flyers would also likely have to retain half of the salary (from ‘Will The Philadelphia Flyers Ship Out More Core Veterans?’, The Hockey News, April 4, 2022). Rebuilding teams don’t just take on bad contracts for free; take the Arizona Coyotes for example. They have done a stellar job of bringing in players past their prime on bad deals if the team includes assets to help them be better for the future.
Many will remember the recent bad trade sending Shayne Gostisbehere to the Coyotes with a second-round pick and a seventh-round pick included. Gostisbehere’s 11 goals and 44 points on a last-place Coyotes team would rank first among the Flyers’ defencemen in both categories and his 44 points would rank third on the entire team. Trading van Riemsdyk in this manner would likely cost around the same amount and it isn’t worth it. The Flyers’ prospect pool is spectacular, so they need every high pick they can in hopes of possibly finding the next player to change the franchise.
I’ve argued why keeping van Riemsdyk is a better option than parting ways with him before the 2022-23 season by shining the light on why the other options are less ideal. He shouldn’t be as disliked as he seems to be in Philadelphia. He is past his prime and has always been a one-dimensional player focused on offence and goalscoring. The Flyers can stick it out one more season and work with the cap they have to trade or sign help.
Rob Couch is a THW freelance writer covering mainly the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. He covers everything you need to know about fantasy hockey. He will also keep you up to date with NHL Stats News, trade talks, and daily betting guides.
You can find more of his work here.