When Sportsnet's Luke Fox came out with a brilliant pending unrestricted free agents article on who to keep an eye on Thursday morning, it was made just even clearer what will happen with the Toronto Maple Leafs and top scorer James van Riemsdyk in the summer.
If the New York Islanders manage to sign captain John Tavares to a contract extension, van Riemsdyk will become the most coveted forward on the market in July. He will have the luxury of shopping around and asking the advice of other free agents before choosing his final destination amongst the many teams looking to add an offensive menace like JVR. Back in January, Chris Johnston had reported that the 28-year-old forward was already making phone calls to other players who recently signed deals. For example, he placed to old friend Cam Atkinson soon after the Columbus Blue Jackets winger signed a $41.125-million, seven-year extension in November. He’s also spoken with Paul Stastny, Matt Carle and a few others.
"That’s just naturally the way I am," van Riemsdyk had said then to Sportsnet. "You try to be prepared for important things in your life. … I’m always just – I don’t know if curious is the right word – but I like to get knowledge and hear different perspectives on things."
Based on comparables, van Riemsdyk’s market value should be somewhere around $6 million or a little above on a deal of at least six years. He’ll be entering his age 29 season on the new contract and has scored at a 29-goal pace over his last 300-plus games.
Fox reminds us that his fate with the Leafs was decided long ago... So why are we still thinking there is a slight chance he could remain in Toronto?
"The Leafs offered van Riemsdyk as part of a failed trade package for then-Islanders defenceman Travis Hamonic at the draft, and Toronto’s investment in LW Patrick Marleau essentially sealed van Riemsdyk’s fate in 2017."
Despite JVR wanting to stay with the Maple Leafs, he could manage to be a strong top-six forward on many others things on the market. Contract talks are non-existent for now, and let's not forget the Leafs need to focus on ponying up big bucks for younger forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
“He has obviously been real hot here since the trade deadline,” head coach Mike Babcock said.
“Now, I don’t know if it’s just you get to concentrate on hockey and not think about all the other things. He’s been good for us, obviously has real good hands around the net and he’s an important player for us.”
JVR might have survived the trade deadline this year, but he may be keeping ready to turn the page on Toronto before the start of next season...