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?

Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

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Raudabaugh throws 10 touchdowns, Soul clinch home-field advantage

The Soul (13-3) defeated the Orlando Predators (12-4)  67-59 at the Amway Center in Orlando on Saturday night.  

With the win, the Soul will have home field advantage throughout the American Conference Championship game.

Reigning league MVP Dan Raudabaugh completed 21 of 29 passes for 335 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Four of those scores were to receiver Chris Duvalt, who led all receivers with nine receptions and 155 yards.

The Soul will host the Tampa Bay Storm (2-14) next Sunday, August 7 at 6 p.m. With a win, the Soul will return to PPL Center for the conference championship on August 14. 
 

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

Hellickson wins possible Phillies swan song, but sustains minor hand injury

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA – Though he wasn’t happy with the way he pitched in what might have been his last start with the Phillies, Jeremy Hellickson still helped the ballclub win on Saturday night.
 
He just did it more with his bat than his arm.
 
Hellickson’s two-run double – the first extra-base hit of his career – gave the Phillies the lead in the fifth inning of what eventually became a 9-5 win over the Atlanta Braves (see Instant Replay).

“The big hit for me was Hellickson’s double,” manager Pete Mackanin said after the game.
 
Mackanin was so happy with Hellickson’s double down the leftfield line that he absolved the pitcher for not being able to get a bunt down earlier in the at-bat.
 
Well, sort of.
 
“We’re going to have to do extra work with all the pitchers because we’re not getting bunts down,” said Mackanin, who was happy to get the win but a little exasperated by the sloppiness of the three-hour, 40-minute dull toothache of a game.
 
“At least we won,” he said. “A win’s a win.”
 
Hellickson's at-bat in the fifth was actually a little more adventurous than anyone would have liked, particularly with the pitcher being on the trading block. Before stroking the double to left, Hellickson got jammed while hitting a foul ball to the right side. The jam shot caused some soreness and bruising on the palm of his right hand and prevented him from getting through the sixth inning. He left after 5 2/3 innings with a 5-3 lead that he helped build.
 
“I’m still not really sure what it is, a bruise or I popped something in there,” Hellickson said after the game. “But I felt fine, though, after I did it. It was just a little tough to grip -- just the curveball.”

Mackanin sent pitching coach Bob McClure to the mound to check on Hellickson in the sixth. The pitcher told McClure his palm was sore so Mackanin got him out of there.
 
“It jarred him,” Mackanin said. “But he’s OK now. In the end, it’s not a big deal. It’s not like his elbow was hurting, you know what I mean?
 
“Anyway, his hit was the big hit of the game. It turned it around for us.”
 
It remains to be seen whether Hellickson’s sore hand will affect his trade status. The issue seemed minor enough that it shouldn’t, but one never knows.
 
The Phillies, according to sources, have received significant interest in Hellickson and he could be on the move by Monday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline. A number of teams including the Orioles, Pirates, Blue Jays and Cardinals have been monitoring him. The Dodgers and Tigers, both in the market for a starter, had scouts at Saturday night’s game. The Tigers scout parachuted in specifically to see Hellickson.
 
Hellickson finished the month of July with a 2.34 ERA in six starts and gave up just four runs in his last three starts. So if someone trades for him, they will be getting a hot hand. He is 8-7 with a 3.70 ERA in 22 starts with the Phillies.
 
“I have no idea what’s going to happen,” Hellickson said. “I'll find out Monday. 
 
“I can't control any of it. So I've just been focused on every start and in between starts. Whatever happens happens. Hopefully I'm still here on Tuesday.”
 
Mackanin echoed that thought.
 
“He’s been an outstanding guy, a real likable person,” Mackanin said. “He’s got a good work ethic. He’s focused and poised on the mound. He’s a true pitcher. He knows how to change speeds. I’d like to keep him.”
 
Atlanta out-hit the Phils, 14-9, but the Braves made two errors and their pitchers walked eight, including four in the eighth innings when the Phillies sent nine men to the plate and scored four times without getting a hit.
 
“When you score four runs without a hit you better win the game,” Mackanin said.
 
The Phillies were able to do that because Cameron Rupp had three hits and scored two runs and reliever Edubray Ramos got four big outs, three via strikeout. Trade candidate Jeanmar Gomez closed out the game in a non-save situation.

“I wanted to win the game,” Mackanin said of his decision to use Gomez. “I didn’t want to take any chances with anyone else. I just wanted one of my best guys knowing that he’s well rested and we have a day off Monday.”
 
Not everyone will be off Monday. The front office will be working the phones as the minutes tick away until the 4 p.m. deadline. Vince Velasquez is in play (see story). Gomez could go. David Hernandez could go. And so could Hellickson. If this was his last start with the Phillies, he finished up with a win.

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

Best of MLB: Happ gets 14th win, Blue Jays take over 1st place

TORONTO -- With one big inning and another strong start from J.A. Happ, the Blue Jays moved into the AL East lead.

Happ won his eighth straight decision, Devon Travis homered and Toronto used a seven-run fifth to beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-1 Saturday, taking sole possession of first place for the first time since early April.

"There's still a lot of baseball left, but I feel we're starting to play good ball," Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said.

Toronto, which won for the 16th time in 22 games, had not been alone atop its division since a 2-0 start. The Blue Jays have scored seven or more runs in an inning three times this season.

Kevin Pillar had two hits and drove in four runs to match his career high. Major league RBIs leader Edwin Encarnacion drove in his 89th run (see full recap).

Giants find just enough offense for rare win since break
SAN FRANCISCO -- Hunter Pence is healthy at last. Joe Panik has been back a few days from a concussion and is driving in runs again. The San Francisco Giants sure are starting to look like themselves again.

Oh, with that new face in the infield of Eduardo Nunez.

Panik hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the seventh inning, Nunez had a two-run double in his first start with San Francisco and the Giants snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Washington Nationals 5-3 on Saturday.

Pence was activated from the disabled list after missing 48 games with a strained right hamstring that required surgery.

"It's huge, just his presence in the lineup," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's one of our guys. In addition to the talent, he brings energy and all those intangibles. He charged up the troops being out there (see full recap)."

De La Rosa, Rockies win 5th straight, Mets lose 4th in row
NEW YORK -- Jorge De La Rosa earned his 100th career victory and the Colorado Rockies eventually caught up with Bartolo Colon, beating the New York Mets 7-2 on a rainy Saturday night for their fifth straight win.

The Rockies improved to 12-4 since the All-Star break and won despite losing NL home run leader Trevor Story to a jammed left thumb. He seemed to get hurt on a scrambling slide in the fourth, exited early and X-rays on the rookie shortstop were negative.

On the day the Mets retired Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza's No. 31, the Mets lost their fourth in row. The 43-year-old Colon (9-6) faltered in his first start on three days' rest since 2005, and slugger Yoenis Cespedes left in midgame because of a nagging quad injury (see full recap).

Rea injured in Miami debut, Marlins win 11-0
MIAMI -- The Miami Marlins' big win might have come with a price.

Newly acquired Colin Rea left early with an elbow injury in his Miami debut in the Marlins' 11-0 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday night.

"We obviously needed the win, but it's not at that cost," Marlins reliever David Phelps said. "Hopefully, it's nothing, but you never like to see a starter come out of the game when you're strapped for starters to begin with."

Rea, acquired in a trade with San Diego, pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out four.

"I kind of felt something in my elbow and it gradually got worse throughout the game," Rea said. "I don't know if I could have thrown another pitch, but we'll see. We don't know anything yet."

Rea initially felt a pain in his arm during warm-ups before the game, but tried to pitch through it (see full recap).