Does the Sharks Proposed Offer for van Riemsdyk Say Something Deeper about His Trade Value?

Does the Sharks Proposed Offer for van Riemsdyk Say Something Deeper about His Trade Value?
February 28, 2012, 11:25 am
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At what price, JVR?

That's the question Flyers fans have been wrestling with since James van Riemsdyk's name was first mentioned as part of a potential trade for Toronto defenseman Luke Schenn in late December.

CSNPhilly's Tim Panaccio describes the last two months for the 22-year-old as so: "So many times before, Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk had heard the trade rumors. Headed to Toronto for Luke Schenn. Part of the Rick Nash deal in Columbus. Maybe part of a larger deal that includes a goalie. You can’t be human, athlete or not, and not wonder whether the rumors have some truth behind them."

Some Flyers fans are comfortable with the idea of shipping Van Riemsdyk. Others are wary of giving up on the second-overall pick of 2007 draft so soon.

But regardless of your personal attachment, aren't you at least a little offended by the audacity of the San Jose Sharks?

Maybe it's my own fault for still holding on to the sting of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, but I can't be the only one who was blown away by San Jose's reported trade offer of Van Riemsdyk for Antti Niemi prior to Monday's trade deadline.

Yeah, that Antti Niemi. The guy who backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a cup by being marginally better than Michael Leighton. That guy...for James van Riemsdyk.

On some level, that's insulting isn't it?

First, some concessions about Niemi's value absent from considerations specifically about Van Riemsdyk. Niemi's numbers are better than I would have expected. He recorded a 2.38 goals against average and .920 save percentage in 60 games last season. This year, he's allowing 2.51 per game and stopping 91.4 percent of what comes his way. Those numbers are, sad to say, much better than the 2011-2012 statistics of Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky.

So, on paper, the Flyers do have a "need" for a goalie with Niemi's numbers. But a closer look at the proposal reveals it as predictably flawed.

Regardless of how bad the Flyers' goalies have been, Niemi's numbers are good enough for just 20th in the league in goals against and 26th in save percentage (these numbers exclude goaltenders who have not played a required number of games to be relevant as determined by the NHL). Moreover,  a goalie's GAA isn't merely a indicator of his own performance. As a team, the Sharks allow the tenth-fewest goals in the league at 2.51 per game. Some of that is a product of the goaltending; some of it is not. For example, San Jose backup netminder Thomas Griess, a 26-year-old German whose playing just his second season in the NHL, had a 2.36 GAA and .914 save percentage in 17 games.

The key contention is that if Ilya Bryzgalov or Sergei Bobrovsky were Sharks, their numbers might be better, and that, likewise, if Niemi was a Flyer -- whose defense allowed guys to freely park in the slot -- his numbers might be worse.

Moreover, even if the Flyers were interested in acquiring Niemi, it couldn't possibly be as a starter. The team is tied to Ilya Bryzgalov for eight-and-a-half more years and a total of $51 million. Niemi, if he came, would be leaving his starting gig in San Jose to come to Philadelphia as a guy with playoff experience in case Bryzgalov can't get his act together. This is the long way of saying "he'd be coming here as a back-up."

So let's get this straight: Do the San Jose Sharks really believe James Van Riemsdyk's trade value is roughly equal (give or take anything else that might have been added to the deal) to that of a backup goaltender with (potentially) inflated numbers?

And really, the Sharks aren't "sellers" either. They're currently second in the Pacific Division and seventh in the Western Conference. Thus, the following questions appear relevant for the asking:

-- They might not be clear-cut cup contenders, but are the Sharks so confident in Griess that they would take him into the playoffs as a starter in a league where lower seeds routinely make deep postseason runs?

-- Similarly, is Niemi, in their estimation, that expendable?

-- If he is, doesn't that speak to a certain belief on their part that they can stick just anyone in goal and have him be okay?

-- And really, shouldn't a team whose goalies have been just atrocious over the last six games (Niemi and Griess have surrendered 28 goals during the stretch) be looking for a netminder rather than trying to trade its starter, especially if that starter is allegedly good enough to trade straight up for a 22-year-old, second-overall draft pick who remains one of the top young prospects in the league?

Yes, of course, the Sharks would make this trade, but why on Earth would the Flyers? This deal might not make sense for them at an even lesser price, so how could San Jose have possibly had the gall to even inquire about it as presented? Is JVR's trade value that low around the league?

All those questions beg another -- one about how the Flyers might themselves be discussing van Riemsdyk behind closed doors.

How about a breakout game against Sharks goaltender tonight, eh Reemer?

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