Van Riemsdyk Contract Extension: On Timing, Duration, and Value

Van Riemsdyk Contract Extension: On Timing, Duration, and Value

On Tuesday, the Flyers announced they'd agreed to terms on a contract extension for 22-year-old winger James van Riemsdyk, the second overall pick in the 2007 entry draft. The deal starts after the coming season and lasts for six additional seasons, with an annual cap hit of $4.25 million, meaning JVR is set to be under contract in Philly through 2017-2018. He'll make $1.654 million on his entry deal in 2011-2012, so the deal does not affect the current cap situation. [see Cap Geek]

Most fans share the organization's opinion that JVR has a bright future, and there's little fear that he'll be breaking down in the latter years of the deal barring injury. The annual hit will also only get better on paper as the league's salary cap (presumably) rises incrementally through the contract's duration. Still, it's not without some degree of a "leap of faith" element on the ice, and I'm not sure how many of us were anticipating a long-term extension for van Riemsdyk this summer, as he was only set to be a restricted free agent after the coming season. Then again, the team's moves this summer have been far from predictable, and it's not so outlandish to think they'd want to hang onto a player with JVR's potential.  

So what led both sides to putting their names to paper right now?

Van Riemsdyk's deal comes on the heels of a breakout playoff run, but not the type of regular season that would absolutely push a franchise to extend a player just before he reached restricted free agency. In his second year with the Flyers, JVR was seventh on the team in scoring (21 G, 19 A, 40 P). His totals were somewhat pedestrian (83 NHLers scored more goals, and 164 had more points), and he added only five points to his rookie total, though they were all in the goals department, and came in three fewer games. His ice time increased in terms of minutes per game on average, but he also missed a few games as a healthy scratch, a strategic move by Peter Laviolette.  

SCRATCHING THE SURFACE

On the one hand, it might be surprising for some that the team gave a long-term extention to a player who found himself watching games as a healthy scratch the previous season, even for a very short time. But the Flyers are a team known for using a good healthy scratching as a motivating tool, and there have been indications that the Flyers factor the way players respond to such coaching decisions into future personnel moves. JVR hadn't scored a goal before a November stint in the press box, and while he didn't light the lamp immediately upon his return, he did tally three before the month was over.

While it seemed the team and the player had a few disagreements about timing his entering the club from UNH, it appears everyone is on the same page coming out of JVR's sophomore season.

DECENT NUMBERS, BUT GOOD COMPANY

Back to his scoring totals, they're obviously not bad for a second-year player on a team that was crowded with scoring forwards. As Bill Meltzer points out, JVR has only one fewer goal and four fewer points than Jeff Carter did after two seasons (albeit Carter played in 10 fewer games during that time). Tim Panaccio goes a bit further back and lines up comparable numbers from John LeClair, the type of player the Flyers hope JVR can grow into, albeit with certain differences expected.  

The comparisons are fun from a franchise history perspective, but really, 20ish goals and 40ish points aren't a rare commodity in the NHL. The contract he just got has far more to do with what's anticipated than what's already been seen.  

FUTURE PERFORMANCE

Barring injury, JVR will almost certainly be higher on the sheet next season for two reasons. First the obvious—two of the players ahead of him are now gone, both from the stat sheet and the depth/minutes played charts. The Flyers very much need JVR to help fill the scoring void left by shipping off two All-Star forwards. Second, he showed last season that he's a player on the rise, showing bright flashes of the scoring pedigree that made him the second overall pick in the 2007 entry draft. In the team's ill-fated and largely disappointing postseason run, JVR was one of the few bright spots, tying with Danny Briere to lead the team in goals with seven, including goals in five straight games.  

That alone didn't earn him a long-term deal, but it certainly didn't hurt his case to show a Stanley Cup-deprived club that he can produce when they need it most.

But even before that, on the ice and off the scoresheet, it was easy to see a maturing player growing into a large frame and playing with increased confidence.  

A healthy JVR will top last season's production with added playing time and perhaps a more consistent role on a line, as well as increased time on a power play that was very crowded in the past two seasons.  

The question now is the degree to which he'll build on the progress he's made and become the superstar some think he's capable of being. If so, this deal could eventually look like a relative steal as JVR emerges as one of the league's more dangerous scorers. If not, well, it'll be disappointing, but the cap hit isn't so out of line with what many mid-level scorers are making around the league. If he finds the net 10 more times this season than last, it'll be hard to argue against the contract that starts next fall.   

In a sense, the Flyers' commitment to JVR along with teammate Claude Giroux was made when they shipped off Mike Richards and Carter earlier this summer. No, these players haven't quite ascended to the joint "Faces of the Franchise" roles Richards and Carter had. Even though Giroux has already assumed a big portion of the scoring yoke, the team will be looking to solidify its overall identity and the players' individual roles as the games are played this year. 

The timing for a JVR deal was seemingly right for the front office, who have to plan longitudinally. It helps to have a few cornerstones in place to build around, and JVR is now cemented as one of them for the foreseeable future (or until the team decides to go another direction). 

COMPARISONS TO GIROUX'S DEAL

Were you taken aback by JVR's annual cap hit being more than the deal signed by Giroux ($3.750 per year for the next three seasons), the Flyers' leading scorer and an All-Star last year? Understandable. But, per Panaccio, JVR is now under contract for two seasons after he would have hit unrestricted free agency. Giroux's deal went the other way, whereby his agent will be at the renegotiating table sooner, but only as a restricted free agent. Neither situation should hurt the Flyers' chances of again re-upping the players, who could be outplaying their deals in a few seasons. At least, that's the hope.

If all is going well down the road, the Flyers will try to get Giroux to re-up, at which point he'll no doubt be the higher paid of the two. Based on Frank Seravalli's report that JVR wanted a cap-friendly deal to allow the team to make other signings in the years ahead, I don't think it's an issue between these guys.

DESTINATION: PHILADELPHIA

When Richards and Carter were traded away against their
wishes, in Carter's case just a season before his NTC kicked in, we wondered whether the moves would hurt the Flyers chances to lock up young talent in similar (ie, "lifetime," "cap-friendly") deals. We don't know that yet, as JVR's deal wasn't that kind of contract (Giroux's next negotiations will be the better test). But so far, the Richards/Carter moves don't appear to have hurt the Flyers reputation throughout  the league. JVR's tweets and interviews after the deal was announced praised the team as being a club that treats its players well.  

"I couldn’t be happier, obviously," JVR said in a conference call with the media yesterday. "Over the two years I’ve been here, and even prior to that when I was with the organization,  I’ve seen how well they treat their players and how highly everyone around it talks about it. Even before I signed, Jim Dowd was actually telling me how lucky I was to be coming to the Flyers and how well they treat their players, and I’ve seen that first-hand. When these talks of an extension started to come up, that was in the back of my mind, and I knew this was the place I really wanted to be.”  

That perception of the Flyers is important, and it's the second time we've heard it this week. Tim Panaccio posted a Skate Zone notebook that included a discussion with new Flyer Wayne Simmonds, who seemed excited to be playing in Philly.

“Fans are totally into hockey here. This is such a different environment,” Simmonds said. “I’m really pumped to play in this city."

“The day I got traded, Justin Williams called and told me how much I was going to love playing in Philadelphia. Not that I didn’t like L.A., but you got the Lakers, you got the Clippers and then you got the Kings. Hockey is big here.”  

Damn right. So are the expectations.  

PREDICTIONS?

Any predictions for JVR's totals this year? Thoughts on lines you'd like to see he and Giroux on?

Nelson Agholor unlikely to play Eagles' preseason finale, even if he could use the work

Nelson Agholor unlikely to play Eagles' preseason finale, even if he could use the work

Starters typically don't play much if at all in the final preseason game, but what does that mean for the Eagles and Nelson Agholor?

Agholor may be a starter by default, but the second-year wideout has followed up a disappointing rookie campaign with an uninspired summer thus far. More reps might be of value for a young player in Agholor's position.

Doug Pederson apparently disagrees, telling reporters on Monday that Agholor "probably" won't make an appearance in the Eagles' preseason finale this Thursday against the Jets. When pressed for an explanation, the head coach gave a curious response.

"One, I don't want to risk an injury necessarily," Pederson said. "Two, he's right on track with where he needs to be, so I'm not concerned with Nelson."

Any assertion that Agholor is "on track" is debatable. The 2015 first-round pick has just two receptions for 30 yards in preseason action. To make matters worse, he's also dropped three passes, including a costly deflection that went for an interception against the Colts on Saturday.

Minimal production and lapses in concentration plagued Agholor throughout last season, and there's little evidence those issues are behind him. Regardless, Pederson sounds unconcerned.

"Every day he comes out here and puts in a quality day's work," Pederson said. "He works extremely hard, and I've seen what he can do in practice.

"Is there the occasional drop here or there? Yeah. What he did after the drop (against the Colts), you probably didn't notice the blocking downfield, the things he did away from the ball. More than being a receiver — obviously, catching the ball is number one — but we pride ourselves in being physical in the run game and blocks down the field, and the things he did in this football game put him in a really good position going into the regular season."

To his credit, Agholor has shown a willingness to contribute without the ball in his hands. The 23-year-old threw a key block on Josh Huff's eight-yard touchdown run on Saturday.

Of course, Agholor wasn't taken 20th overall for his ability to pancake defensive backs. The Eagles are hoping he can become a viable target in the passing attack.

Agholor has dealt with questions about his production and confidence going back to last year. He knows as well as anybody that he needs to improve, although he doesn't necessarily feel that growth needs to take place in an exhibition game.

"The most important thing to me right now is practice, and I got an opportunity to go out here and practice and progress from the game to today," Agholor said. "We went over some corrections from the game, so that was a step, and now when I go out here, I have to show signs of progression.

"(Coach Pederson's) decision is his decision. For my mind, I need to make sure I go out here today and get better as a football player."

But are Agholor's troubles holding on to the football correctable through practice? Drops are often attributed either to a receiver's hands or his concentration, both of which tend to be difficult flaws to overcome.

Concentration has been more to blame in Agholor's case. If there's a positive, he realizes that. Agholor looks at a drop like the one he had against the Colts that wound up going for an interception and tries to figure out exactly what broke his concentration on that play so that he won't make the same mistake again.

"As a wide receiver, when you watch that, the end result, the drop, isn't on my mind," Agholor said. "It's 'What was my route?' to go to that. Did I do too much to take my focus away from receiving that football? And I felt like I did.

"I felt like my pattern to get to the football — I made man moves and they were actually in a zone — and all those stairsteps made my eyes and my hands not be in the right place to receive the football at the right time."

Nobody is putting more pressure on Agholor to eliminate these mistakes than he is.

"That's what you have to do in this league, and that's what you have to do for a football team, especially when they count on you," Agholor said.

"My teammates count on me to be explosive with the football and without the football. I want to always do it with the football because that's my job. I'm a wide receiver. But as a player on the field, I have to make sure I'm explosive and I have to make sure I make plays without the ball in my hands too."

Perhaps that's why Pederson is showing so much faith in his young receiver. Work ethic has never been an issue for Agholor, and he's going to do whatever he can to become a reliable weapon for the Eagles. When he comes up short, it's not for lack of effort or preparation.

Fortunately, there's still time for Agholor to turn things around. If he can give the offense somewhat steady production in 2016, nobody will remember the preseason or even how he struggled as a rookie. Agholor realizes that too, so he's worried only about getting ready for opening day against the Browns on Sept. 11.

"I have a responsibility because I will be a guy that's out there," Agholor said. "In my mind, my number's going to be called multiple times and I need to answer the phone. That's how I look at it."

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres reportedly changes mind, will stand for national anthem

Eagles LB Myke Tavarres reportedly changes mind, will stand for national anthem

Several hours after telling ESPN that he would join Colin Kaepernick in not standing for the national anthem, Eagles rookie linebacker Myke Tavarres has apparently changed his mind. 

Tavarres' agent told FOX29's Chris O'Connell Monday afternoon that the linebacker will stand for the national anthem Thursday in the Eagles' preseason finale against the Jets.

All right then. 

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson released the following statement regarding Tavarres' decision(s):

For what it's worth, Crossing Broad found this picture from Tavarres a few weeks ago, when he certainly seemed to be pro-America.

Happy Independence Day!! 🇺🇸

A photo posted by Myke Tavarres (@myket14) on

Carson Wentz back at practice, frustrated he’s out for Eagles Thursday night

Carson Wentz back at practice, frustrated he’s out for Eagles Thursday night

Carson Wentz was on the fields at the NovaCare Complex wearing a helmet and ready to practice on Monday for the first time since fracturing his ribs on Aug. 11 against the Bucs.

He’s getting better. Just not quickly enough.

Despite being back at practice Monday afternoon, Wentz will not play in the Eagles’ preseason finale against the Jets on Thursday night. The original hope was that the No. 2 overall pick would be ready for the fourth preseason game.

“That’s a no-go for this week, but I’ll be ready for Week 1,” Wentz said.

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said a CT scan on Wentz’s ribs showed one was completely healed, while the other was just 60 percent healed (see story).

Wentz said he expects to be fully healed by Sept. 11, when the Eagles open the season against the Cleveland Browns. But by then, he will have missed three of his four opportunities to play in the preseason. And, as the third-stringer, he won’t even be active on game days.

“It’s tough,” Wentz said. “With all injuries, it’s tough not being on the field, especially as a competitor coming in here, these preseason games were going to be big for me. It’s tough, it’s frustrating, but it just kind of is what it is.”

In his only game this preseason, Wentz went 12 for 24 for 89 yards and an interception. He also ran three times for 15 yards. During that game, he showed flashes of why the Eagles were so high on him, but it was just a taste.

After Thursday night, he will have spent the rest of the preseason as a spectator during games, taking mental reps instead of real ones.

Mental reps help, certainly. Wentz stands on the sideline and mentally inserts himself into the play. What would he do here? What would his read be there? What would he do with a certain protection?

“You’re really just trying to be locked in like you were the guy in the game,” he said.

Mental reps are great. But they don’t replace the real ones. Nothing does.

So while Wentz has been working to get better since going down with the ribs injury earlier this month, he’s lost valuable practice and game reps that he won’t get back. Pederson said once the season starts, the team can’t help him make them up because it will be too focused on getting the starters ready to play.

“You have to make the most of every opportunity you have in practice,” Wentz said. “I feel confident with where I am. Obviously, I missed the couple preseason games. I know when my number gets called, I’ll be ready.”

Pederson on Monday said he was less concerned about Wentz because Wentz is the third-string quarterback behind Sam Bradford and Chase Daniel. That was the plan before Wentz’s injury. Then the injury cemented that plan.

Does Wentz have any hope that he’ll play during his rookie season?

“I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “It’s not up for me to decide. We’ve been talking about this forever now. I know I’ll be ready to go and I’m excited for when I’m back out there. Practicing today, I’m excited for that too.”