No doubt about it, the 2017-18 campaign represented another giant step forward for a young Toronto Maple Leafs squad. Just a season removed from a surprise playoff berth and two seasons removed from a last place finish in the NHL, the Leafs put up a franchise record 105 point regular season. And while there’s lots to be excited about with this team moving forward, there’s no denying that there is still work to be done.
President Brendan Shanahan has to first worry about hiring or promoting a successor to departed general manager Lou Lamoriello. After that, Shanahan and whomever receives the job as Leafs GM will need to turn their focus to pending unrestricted free agent James van Riemsdyk. The 29 year old winger’s six year, $25.5 million contract expires on July 1st, making him eligible to any team on the open market.
JVR’s 36 goal, 54 point campaign in 2017-18 almost assuredly guarantees that he’ll receive a pay raise over the $4.25 million that he’s earned annually for the past six seasons. With expensive extensions for youngsters William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner on the horizon, can the Leafs afford to keep JVR?
You can bet that the Leafs will walk away from their other pending UFAs, Tyler Bozak, Leo Komarov, Tomas Plekanec, Dominic Moore and Roman Polak. Together those players combine for roughly $12 million annually, so it’s theoretically possible that the Leafs will have the dollars needed to sign JVR, but it remains to be seen what the team’s appetite for a long term deal is. As you might expect, neither Shanahan, Lamoriello nor assistant GM’s Mark Hunter or Kyle Dubas have commented on JVR’s status with the team moving forward.
For his part, JVR has been graceful in addressing his contractual situation this season, deflecting the attention from himself at every opportunity. Still, he did manage to raise a few eyebrows in Leafs Nation this afternoon when he issued a formal goodbye to Leafs fans.
Thank you Toronto/Leafs Nation for another year of unwavering support! As always, it’s an honor to put on this jersey! @mapleleafs
Man… is someone cutting onions in here? Don’t leave, James! Here’s hoping that the player and the team can come together on some sort of agreement that makes sense for both sides. While a six or seven year deal seems like a bad idea for the team, a three or even four year deal might make sense?