After months of speculation, and a roller coaster couple of weeks in particular, finally James van Riemsdyk is no longer a Flyer. TSN's Darren Dreger reports the club has agreed to send their second overall pick from 2007 to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn, brother of Brayden Schenn.
Both skaters were rumored to be on the block since prior to this past season's trade deadline, even for each other. As far back as January, reports linked Toronto and Philadelphia in talks regarding these two players, but at the time, Schenn was said to be part of a package deal for JVR. It appears the winger's stock may have fallen some, as the exchange here is one-for-one.
Neither player had a particularly strong showing in 2011-12, though van Riemsdyk clearly was hampered by a series of injuries. Likewise, some of Schenn's performance issues could maybe be traced to playing on an awful team with a supporting cast that leaves something to be desired. Perhaps a change of scenery will be good for both, while simultaneously filling positional needs on both benches.
JVR obviously has tons of potential, though it's not quite been met so far. That said, shipping him out now seems to say less about his ability than it does about the Flyers' immediate needs. Loaded with young talent at forward, van Riemsdyk and his six-year, $25.5 million contract were the right combination of being the most expendable and easiest to move.
It's no secret the Flyers have been searching for blue-line depth, and the likelihood of landing a big fish D-man via free agency appeared slim. The front office hopes Schenn, 23 this November, will help fill that hole. Listed at 6-2, 215 lbs., the fifth overall pick in the '08 Draft is entering NHL season number five, and still has a ton of room to grow -- especially gaining experience alongside of seasoned veterans such as Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, and Nick Grossmann.
Schenn's cap hit is $3.6 million, and he's signed through 2015-16. At that price, the swap also frees up a bit more cap room as FA approaches on July 1. With the Flyers, it's usually safe to say more additions are on the way.
Observers were often divided over JVR. He flashed some absolutely dominant performances during the 10-11 playoff run, and while he has yet to demonstrate that level of play on a consistent basis, he's just 23. The numbers tell a different story, that he has the tendency to disappear, and has not developed into an intimidating physical presence.
However, Schenn figures to immediately take his place as one of the most scrutinized members of the team. The Flyers are banking on him gaining fans with crushing hits, and being part of a defensive revolution while injecting some welcomed youth on the back end. Others will view the return for JVR as less than a home run at best, uncertain at worst.
Regardless, it's not difficult to understand GM Paul Holmgren's line of thinking here: trade from depth to acquire a need. It's only natural to have some mixed feelings. There is a distinct possibility van Riemsdyk becomes a monster, another distinct possibility that Schenn is not the answer for the Flyers. Of course, that's the inherent risk involved in most transactions.
While I for one am sad to see James go, and will go so far to say I believe he will be an All Star one day, I'm not going to fall under the temptation to evaluate this deal today. Consider this is a fresh start for Luke Schenn. As long as the front office is able to get Matt Carle under contract, or find a suitable replacement, I'll be comfortable with the current direction of the Flyers defensemen.