By Tom Hunter (@)
I’ll start off by saying that I don’t necessarily believe that trading James van Riemsdyk is the best thing for the Maple Leafs. Sure, the wing is probably the team’s deepest position, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good idea to trade away one of the team’s best offensive talents.
I understand why people would want to move JVR, he’s going to be 29-years old when he needs a new contract in the summer of 2018 and while that’s not exactly over the hill, it’s definitely on the wrong side of an NHL player’s prime.
JVR will be expensive and he will be looking for at least 6 or 7 years on a new contract. With that said, it seems like trading JVR to fill a hole on the blueline (down the middle) will only result in the team looking to find a JVR-like winger to play in the top-6 when the team is actually good a year from now.
With that said, there are numerous reports around the hockey world that the Leafs are at least listening to trade offers for the elite power forward – so I’ll play along.
What would van Riemsdyk cost in a trade? Or better yet, what should the Leafs be asking for?
On this week’s podcast, Steve Dangle made a few references to last year’s Andrew Ladd trade in terms of an expected return for JVR – the Jets got 2016 first round pick and Marko Dano from Chicago at least year’s trade deadline.
While this is a good comparison in the sense of a 1st and NHL ready prospect being a decent return, I would hope the Leafs could do better for themselves.
Ladd was four years older and only had a few month left on his contract when he was traded. With that said, the return for Ladd isn’t as impressive as some believe. Marko Dano is a player who’s reputation has exceeded his actual performance over the past few years. There are those on hockey twitter who have treated him as a blue chip prospect when the fact is that he has never really been close to one.
The return for Ladd was a late 1st and a B prospect. The Leafs have to do a lot better for JVR.
Another comparable that will be a lot more familiar to Leafs fans is the Phil Kessel trade. Kessel is a better player, but his contract was much more expensive and had very different circumstances surrounding his trade.
It seems the Leafs thought they HAD to trade Kessel and as a result, were forced into taking a lesser return. A first round pick, an A- prospect and an AHL defender is the type of return the Leafs probably shouldn’t have taken for Kessel and one they definitely shouldn’t take for JVR.
For me, the Leafs should be looking for something a lot closer to what the Rangers got for Derick Brassard. Look for a trade for a young NHL player that doesn’t necessarily fit into his team and fill in the gaps with lesser draft picks.
Brassard was a very good and useful player to the Rangers, but they were able to move him for a younger, less polished Mika Zibanejad and a second round pick.
A proven NHLer in his early 20s with some control on his contract would be the ideal return, but of course, that’s easier said than done.
Another possibility is a one for one, need for need swap. The Hall/Larsson trade comes to mind in terms of framework – but you can’t be trading JVR for a second pairing guy like Adam Larsson.
The third (and possibly most likely) scenario would be trading JVR for a high-end prospect and a 1st – something they tried to do with Phil – but for a guy closer to the NHL than Kapanen was. This scenario is a lot more risky for two reasons; 1. prospects are never a sure thing and 2. this year’s draft is going to be a lot weaker than the last bunch, so a 1st round pick doesn’t carry the same value it would have in the past.
Now for the fun part. Let’s say the Leafs are dead set on trading JVR, who are the targets that make sense?
Jacob Trouba – the JVR for Trouba talk has been out there ever since the young defender requested a trade from Winnipeg. Why? It just makes sense all around. Trouba is the young top-4 RD that the Leafs desperately need. He’d look very nice pairing with either Rielly or Gardiner and would give Babcock the big minute eating defender he loves. The problem is that Winnipeg seems to be holding out for a different return, and judging by the Seth Jones and (the not as talented) Adam Larsson trades, the return for a player like Trouba would be astronomical.
Travis Sanheim + 2017 1st round pick – Trading JVR back to the Flyers makes all kinds of sense. The Flyers are in the toughest division in hockey and pairing JVR with Wayne Simmonds would create a line that could do a lot of damage in the playoffs.
If we’re talking about prospects in a JVR trade, Sanheim is the exact kind of guy you’d be looking at. The 20-year old defender is having a very good year as a rookie in the AHL. He’s big, he can skate, and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he were ready to be a full-time NHLer next season. If the price for a young NHL defenseman is too high, a prospect like Sanheim is the next best option.
Colin Miller + 2017 1st round pick – The Boston Bruins need scoring, that’s no secret. Beyond Pastrnak and Marchand, the team lacks any legitimate offensive threats on the wing. Given their love of power forwards in Boston, JVR would likely be of huge interest to the Bruins.
On the flip side, Colin Miller strikes me as the kind of defender that is drastically underrated unless you’re paying close attention. He’s the right handed shot the Leafs are looking for and at 23-years old, he fits into the young nucleus of the team. With Torrey Krug’s tremendous play and Brandon Carlo taking the title of ‘young stud’, it is actually Miller who has been the team’s best defender in terms of corsi over the past two seasons.
Miller would be an incredible acquisition, and JVR is the type of piece you could distract Boston with to get it done.
Let’s no forget that is was a young Mr. Kyle Dubas that brought Miller into the OHL with the Soo Greyhounds.
Josh Manson + 2017 first round pick – speaking of young right-shot defenders that are a lot better than the average hockey fan realizes, Josh Manson would be a great fit in Toronto. The problem here is that while he was somewhat of a secret last season, most people around the league are starting to realize just how good Manson really is.
When talking about a trade for any Anaheim defender, the expansion draft has to be brought into the conversation. With Bieksa’s NMC, Vatanen, Lindholm, Fowler and Manson, the Ducks are going to have a hard time protecting everyone. So why not try to swoop in and convince them that moving a stud like Manson makes sense to alleviate the problem.
Jakub Vrana – when you think Washington Capitals, you don’t often think ‘scoring trouble’ but that’s exactly what we are seeing this season. The Caps have scored the least number of goals of any team in the Eastern Conference that has a positive goal differential. JVR would help fix that.
In 10 games this season, Jakub Vrana is second to only David Pastrnak in terms of CF/60 among all forwards playing 5v5. Add that to his nearly point per game pace in the AHL and you have the makings of a potential offensive dynamo.
Thinking you could acquire a player like Vrana might be a pipe dream, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that Washington sees JVR as the piece to finally push them through the playoffs this season or next. It wouldn’t be the first time that a team has given up a 20-year old future star in the hopes of a cup run.
Matthews and Vrana as centers for two scoring lines, with Selke favourite Nazem Kadri centering the checking line – these are the things dreams are made of.
Calvin de Haan + Anthony Beauvillier – the Islanders stink, we know this. So why would they trade for a guy like JVR now?
The answer is simple; Garth Snow & co. have to do absolutely everything to keep John Tavares happy. The franchise player has a contract that is heading towards expiration very quickly and if the Islanders don’t show they’re trying to get him elite teammates, things are going to get really ugly in Brooklyn.
JVR would instantly be the best winger Tavares has played with in the NHL and giving them next season together, might be enough to convince the captain to sign an extension. Usually, when a bad team trades futures, it’s a bad idea. In this case, it might be necessary. If Tavares leaves the Islanders they will be absolutely devastated for another decade.
Beauvillier would give the Leafs a young winger that has more offensive upside than any they have after Marner and Nylander. He would fit in nicely on the left side of either scoring line for the next decade. Add in de Haan and you’ve got a very nice return.
On a bad team, de Haan has been a positive shot attempt player over the past three seasons and would fill a hole on either the second or third pair along the right side.
What do you think?
Am I aiming too high? Too low? What kind of return would you like to see if the Leafs were to trade James van Riemsdyk?