The future of James van Riemsdyk in Toronto has been the single biggest story of this season for the Maple Leafs. Should he stay or should he go? Will he stay or will he go?
Something that has been long overlooked this season is a move that nearly transpired this summer, but ultimately fell through.
The Leafs reportedly offered the New York Islanders van Riemsdyk and a first round pick in the 2018 NHL draft for the services of Travis Hamonic. The deal wasn't accepted, with the Calgary Flames swooping in and giving a first round pick and two second round picks for the defenseman.
It's unclear if this was a question of trading out of the conference, or if two second round picks presented a higher value than van Riemsdyk. Alternatively, New York may have really just wanted to stock up on futures. But that seems unlikely as one of their biggest goals last year was to insulate John Tavares with scoring power on the wings, and JvR is among the best in the league in that respect.
Perhaps this isn't the right conclusion to pull out of this, but interesting to think about nonetheless - is JvR worth less than two second round picks on the trade market?
Either way, this all could be a sign of things to come. The Leafs were willing to go into the season without JvR, preferring to solidify their blue line. You might say - well if they traded van Riemsdyk for a defenseman, maybe they would have replaced him in another deal or signing. Maybe, but almost certainly not. The free agency crop this summer was weak, to say the least. And trading for someone else wouldn't have made much sense.
The point is, they were willing to play out this season without JvR, if they could flip him for a defenseman.
So what's stopping them from continuing that pursuit for a top defenseman at the trade deadline? If they were willing to sacrifice him last summer, and given that the Leafs are dealing with some growing pains this year, they could easily still try and deal him off by February 26th. Whether it be for a defenseman, or for assets that could give them ammunition in June, that much is unclear.
Let's not forget that John Carlson could hit the open market on July 1st. A top-pairing right shot defenseman is hard to come by, and all the Leafs would need is cap space. Cap space they could get if they trade away van Riemsdyk now. Sure, they could get that cap space by keeping him for a playoff run and letting him walk in the summer, but why not get some good assets for him, and accept the fact that this is not a Stanley Cup year?
What do you think is the best course of action for the Leafs involving Jvr?