One thing’s for sure this upcoming offseason: Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk is going to get PAID. Whether or not he gets his money from the Leafs or elsewhere, remains the be seen.
The 28-year-old is in the final year of a deal that pays him $4.25 million annually and will be seeking a significant raise on that number based on his play and his statistical totals since arriving in Toronto from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. How high of a number? Certainly north of $5 million per season, but could he command as much as $6 million or even $7 million on the open market?
Van Riemsdyk is just one goal off of the Leafs lead with 18 goals in 43 games this season. He sits fourth in team scoring behind Auston Matthews, William Nylander, Mitch Marner and defenseman Morgan Rielly. It’s clear that he’s a valuable player in the Leafs organization, but don’t expect GM Lou Lamoriello to give into contract demands easily. He has a talented young team and will need every penny at his disposal to keep it all together.
TSN insider Darren Dreger joined TSN 1050 hosts Matt Cauz and Scott MacArthur to break down all the latest in the negotiations between JVR and the Leafs and the numbers may surprise some fans.
“Bob McKenzie brought up JVR,” started Cauz, “and was throwing out five years, six-million dollar range is going to be the starting point for JVR. Does that seem right?”
“Well, I feel like they’re [the Leafs] going to be unwilling at this point,” replied Dreger. “But that speaks more to the work that they have to do around JVR. And, the money is right… I think that van Riemsdyk would take $6 million.”
The “work around JVR” Dreger alludes to almost certainly means extensions for young forwards Nylander, Matthews and Marner. That trio is going to cost the Leafs a pretty penny, so they can hardly afford to spend precious cap space on a player like JVR if he’s not in the team’s long-term plans. Even more importantly, with JVR sit to hit 30 years of age next season, do the Leafs want to commit so much term to an aging player?
“In a perfect world, I think that JVR would like a 6x6 scenario to stay in Toronto,” said Dreger. “I think that his group would argue that that’s leaving some on the table. He wants to remain in Toronto.”
That’s all fine and well, but a 28-year-old JVR at $6 million per season may be VERY different from a 34-year-old JVR at $6 million per season. The term gap may be too great for the two sides to bridge. If so, where’s his replacement? The Leafs don’t currently posses ANYONE, short of Matthews, with JVR’s combination of size and skill. If he can’t come to terms with the Leafs, there will be no shortage of suitors willing to pay him 6x6 on July 1st.
Dermott the answer to blue line woes?
In other Leafs news, rookie defenceman Travis Dermott has acquitted himself VERY well in his first two NHL games, earning rave reviews from head coach Mike Babcock.
You wouldn’t have known it by Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada game against the Vancouver Canucks, was the first career NHL game for Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Dermott. The 21-year-old Newmarket, Ontario product skated just over 12 minutes in his big-league debut, picking up his first career point, an assist, in the Leafs’ 3-2 shootout victory.
"I thought he was confident, moved the puck, skated good. He looks like he's got good hockey sense," Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said on Saturday evening. "It looked like the situation didn't intimidate him at all."
It’s clear that Dermott’s play has earned him a spot on the Leafs’ blue line for the time being, but what happens when the injured Nikita Zaitsev returns from his foot injury? The Leafs have been searching for another capable top-four blue liner all season, have they finally found it in Dermott? If only… if ONLY he were a right-shot.
“In an ideal world, he would be a right-hand shot and he would be on the team all year (and not with the Toronto Marlies),” says Babcock.
So, until Dermott either decides to play right-handed or until a left-side defenceman on the Leafs slumps or goes down with injury, don’t hold your breath on Dermott being the solution to the team’s defensive woes. That being said, the youngster does appear to have a bright future in the organization. It’s not a question of if he’ll be an impact player, just a question of when.