The Toronto Maple Leafs have had a critical decision to make regarding James van Riemsdyk's expiring contract. It's been heavily discussed this season, with different scenarios being explored: whether the Leafs were going to re-sign him, trade him at deadline, or keep him as an "own rental" to aid in their playoff push this season. They obviously chose the latter, and sure hope he can bring something to the team until the end of the season and in the playoffs, considering they will probably lose the 29-year-old forward for nothing on July 1st.
As The Athletic's Tyler Dellow reported yesterday, the fact Leafs' general manager Lou Lamoriello has yet to sign him to a contract extension indicates they have got other priorities. Here's what he had to say about that:
William Nylander, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner are all up for new contracts over the next couple of seasons, which will bring a new financial reality to the Maple Leafs. This year, they have a collective cap hit of about $7.25 million. If the Maple Leafs go long on all three, it's not hard to imagine them eating up $25 million in cap space in 2019-20. So the Maple Leafs are going to have to find economies. In a way, van Riemsdyk's kind of picked the worst possible time to become an unrestricted free agent because of how the salary cap system works. The cap hits for Nylander, Matthews and Marner will decline as a percentage of the salary cap but it will take some time for that to happen. Jake Gardiner's deal expires at the end of 2019 too and he'll either need to be replaced or re-signed – that will take money."
Now that's where Dellow mentioned where he believes van Riemsdyk will land if he isn't back in Toronto. He says Calgary, Anaheim, St. Louis, Chicago, Columbus and Edmonton could all be potential fit, considering they have problems with their power play units. However, he believes only the Blue Jackets and Blues could make a legitimate push for the left winger:
Columbus has their own little cautionary tale about signing aging wingers in the form of Nick Foligno. Columbus could likely make it work if they wanted to but it would be throwing more resources at players in their late twenties on a team that still seems to be a few steps away from being a Cup contender.
St. Louis strikes me as the best fit for van Riemsdyk from the cities I've looked at, although the Blues aren't the wealthiest team in the world. St. Louis has the core of a team that's better than their record. They'll be introducing some young offensive prospects into the NHL over the next few years and van Riemsdyk has done well in the recent past in that situation playing with Marner in a sheltered role. They need to get something out of their third line next year, which would be broadly consistent with the role van Riemsdyk has played in Toronto over the past few seasons.
Dellow added that he thinks van Riemsdyk is going to ask for at least $6 million per season, for six or seven years. In 67 games this year, he recorded 26 goals and 15 assists for 41 points. The former second overall pick amassed 62 points in 82 games last season with Toronto.
Do you think he is going to sign with Toronto again, or is he going to go elsewhere?
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