Philadelphia Flyers forward James Van Riemsdyk has aged about as well as a half-eaten apple in the sun. As his 33rd birthday approaches, his fate will be one of the more interesting questions the Flyers face this summer, but there doesn’t seem to be one cut-and-dry answer. Each option has pros and cons that could effect the team not just for this coming offseason but beyond this summer as well.
Buy Him Out
After a charged mid-season press conference from Chuck Fletcher, it seems pretty clear the Flyers are going to go hard in a pursuit for a winning hockey team during the offseason. That means they’ll need every available dollar to sign free agents and make trades. Unfortunately, Van Riemsdyk’s buyout cap isn’t as forgiving as we were hoping for. He’d be due $4.3 million next season and $1.3 million in 2023-24. It may not be much, but a few extra million could be the difference between acquiring a top star and missing out.
To play devil’s advocate, paying JVR for two years instead of one doesn’t really make sense, especially when the savings next year amounts to less than three million dollars. Considering the Flyers are seemingly going to be against the cap for years to come, having $5.6 million in total dead space for the next two seasons probably isn’t a good thing.
Dump His Cap
Last season the Flyers dumped defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere and his contract on the Arizona Coyotes for no return. The Flyers packaged a second and seventh round pick to make the deal happen to entice the ‘Yotes to eat the $4.5 million cap hit for two seasons. Now, with another anchor of a contract the needs to be moved, the Flyers may have to deploy a similar strategy once again to deal with JVR. It’s not ideal, and wasting draft assets when the organization is either going to rebuild or make big plays on the trade scene, is about the exact opposite of what they need to do. You wash your hands clean of an ugly contract, but the gotta pay out the wazoo to do it. Is the risk of giving up draft picks worth the reward of more cap space?
They could always bite the bullet and keep him around for the last year of his deal. His contract isn’t entirely impossible to work around, but it will severely limit the money they’ll have to throw at potential free agents. JVR can still be deployed as a veteran depth player who can chip in a powerplay goal once or twice a month, but it is difficult to justify that when he’s making over seven times what, say, Gerry Mayhew is making.
Trading JVR doesn’t mean they find a willing suitor who is willing to pay to acquire him, what it means is more than likely swapping a bad contract for a slightly less terrible contract. When we looked through CapFriendly’s Armchair GM feature, we came across a trade that featured JVR to Arizona for Andrew Ladd. Ladd, 36, whose deal also expires next season, makes $5.5 million instead of JVR’s $7 million. It may not be the sexiest of trades, and there’s a good chance Ladd is more useless than JVR, if you can imagine, but the Flyers get at least a little bit of cap savings next season but still get out of the deal during the 2023 summer.
When it comes to the fate of JVR, it’s all about the financial implications of the move. His individual play is about as worthless as it gets and, despite still occasionally still being useful on the powerplay, his offensive totals are falling fast and he’s slower than an actual glacier at this point.
If this coming offseason is as busy it it appears it’s going to be, every dollar will count. In that case $2.7 million in free cap from a buyout may be worth it. If they, say, trade Travis Sanheim and his $4.6 cap hit for draft picks, all of a sudden the Flyers have $7.3 million in free space. Buying out JVR partnered with a flurry of other moves could open up some serious cap space for the Flyers. But $4.3 million in dead space for a team that’s already against the ceiling is a sizable hinderance.
Paying someone to take on his contract unfortunately seems like the worst option. Washing your hands clean on his $7 million cap would provide a huge chunk of change for the Flyers to play with, but giving up more draft picks or prospects during such a volatile time in the club’s history is probably the worst thing they could do.
The most enticing option seems to be trading him for a fellow washed up player on a slightly less terrible deal. It won’t provide the savings other options would, but it gives them at least an extra million dollars in savings without draining any real draft assets or committing cash beyond next season.
James Van Riemsdyk has been one of the streakiest players in recent Flyers history and has put him in a weird middle ground between asset and obstacle during his return to the Flyers. His $7 million cap hit needs to be dealt with one way or another, and as noted, there isn’t one perfect solution. It’s one of the various in-house troubles the Flyers front office will have to deal with before the summer even begins. Hopefully Fletcher doesn’t do anything overly crazy dealing with JVR that could hurt him during negotiation elsewhere, but it’s the risk that is going to have to be taken to once and for all move the seven million dollar man out of Philadelphia.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com