The Philadelphia Flyers do not have many players who will be unrestricted free agents (UFA) – James van Riemsdyk, Patrick Brown, and Justin Braun represent the roster members whose current deals will expire after 2022-23. They have improved over the last three weeks with a record of 9-4-1, but will probably not be in a position to be buyers by the trade deadline. Aside from the fact that they have not done well offensively for most of the year with a 2.78 goals per game played (GF/GP), they did not win enough earlier in the season to be in a position to add players in preparation for the postseason. They are limited with a relatively young roster and head coach John Tortorella commented previously in December that the club is still in the early stages of building a foundation.
James van Riemsdyk has skated on the Flyers’ top six this year and has developed chemistry playing with Owen Tippett and Morgan Frost. Earlier in the season, he missed over a month recovering from a fractured finger, but has managed 21 points in 29 games. One of his strengths is positioning his body in front of the net to create scoring chances, which will be of value to a club seeking more offensive depth. General manager (GM) Chuck Fletcher announced back in December that the veteran forward is on the trading block. Let’s take a look at five clubs that may acquire the veteran forward by the trade deadline.
According to a piece by Frank Servalli of The Daily Faceoff, the Dallas Stars need more offensive production outside of their top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, and Joe Pavelski. They could be in the market to improve their top six by the trade deadline and van Riemsdyk is an option for them to pursue. However, like many clubs that are in contention to make the postseason, they do not have much salary cap space to add more contracts.
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Jeff Marek mentioned previously on Hockey Night in Canada regarding his contract that, “The actual cash here is $5 million (and) $1 million has already been paid as a bonus going back to last summer. The cap hit is $7 million… and the Flyers could eat some of that as well to make it more palatable for a team looking at James van Riemsdyk.” If the Stars have an interest in acquiring the forward, the Flyers could absorb $3.5 million of the cap hit to facilitate the trade. GM Fletcher will look at trading for a young player in the Stars’ minor league system, such as Thomas Harley, and their 2024 second-round draft pick.
The Colorado Avalanche have regressed offensively in goals for per game played from last year to this season. During 2021-22, they averaged 3.76 goals per game played during the regular season and increased that total to 4.25 GF/GP in 20 playoff games on their way to a Stanley Cup championship. This season, they have averaged 3.04 goals per game played, ranked 21st in the NHL. Injuries have played a significant part in their struggles this season as Gabriel Landeskog (knee surgery), Valeri Nichushkin (ankle), Nathan MacKinnon (upper body), and Cale Makar (undisclosed) have missed time with ailments. In addition to the injuries, Nazem Kadri and Andre Burakovsky are two key forwards who signed free-agent deals with other franchises.
Acquiring van Riemsdyk would increase their depth at the forward position, especially if the Avalanche can avoid further injuries to key players going forward. The veteran winger’s net-front presence will increase their scoring chances at even strength and will aid their power play further. Six of his eight goals and 11 of his 13 assists have occurred at 5-on-5 play, so he is capable of aiding them with their scoring chances to increase their production at goals for per game played.
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While the Avalanche have a big need at the center position, they could consider adding to the wing position as well, given their bad luck with injuries and attempting to fill the void left by the losses of Kadri and Burakovsky. Given that Landeskog’s estimated return is a few more weeks away and that he will need several contests to get back into game shape, it would behoove Joe Sakic, the President of Hockey Operations, and GM Chris MacFarland to explore who is available to play the wing position to increase their depth, especially if they do not add a big name at center. Assuming the Flyers take on half of van Riemsdyk’s salary in a deal, GM Fletcher would be interested in acquiring the Avalanche’s second-round pick in the 2025 NHL Draft and Ben Meyers.
New York Rangers
Making deadline trades with a division rival may not be that common, but the New York Rangers need more depth at forward. During the offseason, they were unable to retain Andrew Copp, Frank Vatrano, and Tyler Motte, which left the organization thinner at forward entering 2022-23. They are a club with the reputation of attracting big names in free agency and trades due to playing in the biggest market, and this season is no different as Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane has been connected with them in trade rumors for quite some time. Should GM Chris Drury not acquire a star such as the 34-year-old winger by the March 3 deadline, van Riemsdyk is a solid option.
Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko are still developing and do not appear ready to be used consistently in the Rangers’ top six. Acquiring van Riemsdyk will give them a more experienced winger for head coach Gerard Gallant to put anywhere throughout the top nine on a line that features Mika Zibanejad, Vincent Trocheck, or Filip Chytil at center. The Middletown, New Jersey, native can use his 6-foot-3, 208-pound frame in front of the net that will be of value to a club that implements Chris Kreider (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) in their offense similarly.
While van Riemsdyk would not be as splashy of an addition as Kane or St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, he represents an upgrade in terms of his experience over Lafreniere and Kakko. He is an improvement offensively compared to Jimmy Vesey, who has become more of a defensive player on the wing for the Rangers under Gallant. GM Fletcher and GM Drury could strike a deal involving the Flyers’ winger, Justin Braun, and their 2024 third-round draft pick for the Rangers’ 2023 second-round draft pick, their 2024 third-round draft pick, and Vitali Kravtsov.
The Washington Capitals are another division rival of the Flyers that is in the playoff mix led by ageless wonder Alexander Ovechkin. The second-leading goal scorer of all time is in his 18th season. With Nicklas Backstrom (hip surgery) and Tom Wilson (torn ACL) making their season debuts earlier this month, they are aiming to make a push in a competitive Metropolitan Division. The returns of the two forwards have increased the club’s depth, but they are without key defenseman John Carlson after he was struck with a slap shot to his head during the Dec. 23 contest vs. the Winnipeg Jets. Depending upon if the club remains healthy on offense, and how much longer their top defenseman remains out between now and March 3, will determine if they decide to trade for a top player at forward or on their blue line.
Should they miss out on acquiring other top deadline rumored targets, such as Vancouver Canucks’ captain Bo Horvat or Timo Meier of the San Jose Sharks, van Riemsdyk is another experienced forward that they should consider. He would excel playing with core players Ovechkin and Backstrom. Evgeny Kuznetsov is another forward who would benefit from playing with the Flyers winger if head coach Peter Laviolette decided to put the players on the same line or power-play unit together. The 30-year-old center is their leading assist leader this season and would benefit from playing with a forward whose strength is getting in front of the net. GM Fletcher could trade van Riemsdyk and the 2024 third-round draft pick in exchange for Connor McMichael and the Capitals’ 2025 second-round draft pick.
van Riemsdyk will add depth to a Jets club that has been competitive in the Central Division as they are in the hunt for the top spot against the Stars. They are rumored to be in the mix to make a big acquisition at the deadline such as adding Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, but the Flyers’ forward’s salary is cheaper to add, particularly if GM Fletcher assumes half of his earnings in a deal. The wing would be regulated to a third-line role for them based on how deep they are in the top six.
The Jets rank 12th in the league, averaging 3.27 goals for per game played and rank 13th with a power-play percentage of 23.4. Increasing their own depth offensively will aid them in maintaining their standing near the top of the Central. Adding van Riemsdyk will allow them to have the opportunity to also add a depth piece at center should they choose to do so given that Toews has a higher salary. A deal involving him would include the Flyers trading a 2025 third-round pick to the Jets for their 2024 second-round pick and Morgan Barron.
van Riemsdyk can fill in for injured players or represent an addition to a playoff team that seeks to increase its depth for a lengthy playoff run. The Flyers will be sellers and looking to acquire future assets and younger players to be in a better position to compete within the next several years. Despite their improvements over the last month, they have not gained ground in a tough division. Many fans would prefer they rebuild rather than try to compete for a wild-card spot. They did not play well enough offensively during November and December despite the promising first half from Travis Konecny, Carter Hart, and Tippett. They have some exciting players on their roster that can be a part of a good Flyers team in several years, but the club will likely aim to trade established players that are capable of contributing clubs with Stanley Cup aspirations.