(Photo: Kate Frese)
Former Flyers second-overall pick James van Riemsdyk is coming back to the City of Brotherly Love after signing a five-year, $35 million deal with a $7 million annual average value.
van Riemsdyk spent the past six seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs and posted some remarkable numbers.
In four of his six seasons with Toronto, van Riemsdyk surpassed the 50-point mark. The only two seasons he did not accomplish this was in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, when he had 32 points in 48 games during the lockout year, and and injury-shortened 2015-16 season, when he had 29 points in 40 games.
Now what could this mean for Philadelphia?
For starters, he is a force on the powerplay, as he potted 45 goals during his long tenure with the Leafs, 11 of them last season. He could easily fit into the second power-play unit for the Flyers, who need a good scoring touch there.
Now although JVR could fit into the top power-play unit, it would be unlikely considering the fact that the combination of players that includes Jake Voracek, Sean Couturier, Wayne Simmonds, following with Claude Giroux, and Shayne Gostisbehere on the blue line directing the power play. For the second unit, the Flyers used many different player combinations, with Oskar Lindblom, Travis Konecny, Jordan Weal and Valtteri Filppula all getting time among forwards.
This is where van Riemsdyk could fit in. He could easily replace someone like Weal or Lindblom, but on the opposite wing. Another possibility is to move JVR to the blue line spot that Giroux occupies alongside Ivan Provorov.
The biggest question with van Riemsdyk’s return is what will happen to Simmonds? The 29 year-old is 6’3", 217 pounds, while Simmonds is 6’2", 185 pounds. They are almost the same frame, but van Riemsdyk is a little heavier which he uses that to his advantage by putting his body right in front of the net. The New Jersey native scored a majority of his 36 goals while in front, whether he was tipping them past the goaltenders, or scrapping up the rebound. Simmonds scored 24 goals, 22 assists for 46 points in 75 games despite dealing with several injuries.
Simmonds has been one of the main leaders on and off the ice for the Orange and Black. It will be very interesting to see how everything turns out for his future, however do not rule out a trade that includes him now that JVR is back in Philadelphia.
At the very least, the addition of van Riemsdyk gives the Flyers more balance among forward lines.
Regardless of what happens from here, with either additional free agent signings, trades or promotion from within, Hextall has made his first big free agent splash since stepping in as the GM for Philadelphia in 2014.