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?

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

Wideouts Rueben Randle, Chris Givens among 8 players cut by Eagles Sunday

The Eagles released Rueben Randle and Chris Givens on Sunday, ending the brief and disappointing Eagles careers of both veteran wide receivers.

The two receivers were among eight players released by the team on Sunday evening.

Randle caught five passes for 26 yards in the preseason and Givens caught one for 19 yards.

The Eagles tried to bolster their receiver corps by adding the two receivers this offseason, signing Randle to a one-year, $1,025,000 contract and Givens to a one-year $760,000 deal.

Randle got $500,000 guaranteed and Givens $180,000 guaranteed, so the two moves will count $680,000 against the Eagles’ 2016 adjusted salary cap of $161,570,362.

The moves leave the Eagles with eight wide receivers: Jordan Matthews, Nelson Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham, Josh Huff, Paul Turner, Marcus Johnson, Cayleb Jones and David Watford.

Barring any other personnel moves, Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff and Turner appear headed for the final 53-man roster.

Randle’s decline is fairly astonishing.

Two years ago with the Giants, he caught 71 passes for 938 yards, and last year he caught 57 passes for 797 yards and eight touchdowns. He had four catches of 40 yards or more in 2015, fourth-most in the NFL. In four seasons in New York, he caught 188 passes for 2,644 yards and 20 TDs.

Yet the Giants had no interest in re-signing him. Now the former second-round pick’s career is in jeopardy at the age of 25.

Givens, a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2012, was with his third team in two years this summer. His once-promising career could be over at the age of 26.

Most notable among the six other players released was offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, who started 11 games in an Eagles uniform.

Gardner, who had also spent time with the Dolphins and Texans, started eight games at right guard and right tackle for the Eagles in 2014 and was the Eagles’ opening-day starter last year at right guard. He suffered a Lisfranc injury in his left foot during a Week 3 game against the Jets at the Meadowlands and missed the rest of the season.

Also released was a member of last year’s draft class, sixth-round pick Randall Evans out of Kansas State. Evans spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad but was activated for the Pat Shurmur season finale against the Giants at the Meadowlands and got into the game on special teams.

The Eagles also released veteran defensive tackle Mike Martin, who played in 46 games for the Titans the last four years, including five starts. Also released were long snapper John DePalma and cornerback Denzel Rice, the latter of who played in five games last year and got 20 defensive snaps in the season finale against the Giants last year.

The Eagles also placed linebacker Joe Walker (knee) and defensive end Alex McCalister (calf), two rookie seventh-round picks, on season-ending Injured Reserve.

Teams have until Tuesday to reduce rosters to 75. The Eagles’ roster is currently at 73, and they have to reduce it to 53 by 4 p.m. next Sunday.

The Eagles finish the preseason on Thursday night at the Linc against the Jets.

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

Best of MLB: Josh Donaldson mashes 3 home runs to lead Blue Jays past Twins

TORONTO -- Josh Donaldson had his first career three-homer game, Troy Tulowitzki also went deep and the Toronto Blue Jays beat the Minnesota Twins 9-6 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Donaldson hit a solo homer off Kyle Gibson in the second, then delivered a go-ahead, two-run blast off Pat Light (0-1) in the seventh.

Dozens of fans tossed hats onto the field to celebrate the home run hat trick after Donaldson, the AL MVP in 2015, hit a solo shot off Alex Wimmers in the eighth. Groundskeepers and even the Blue Jays mascot helped clear the hats away.

Donaldson's fourth multi-homer game this season and the 10th of his career also marked the 17th three-homer game in the majors this season.

Jose Bautista had his first three-hit game of the season for the AL East-leading Blue Jays.

Minnesota lost its season-worst 10th straight. The Twins have lost seven straight in Toronto.

Scott Feldman (7-4) earned the win by getting two outs in the seventh. Jason Grilli worked the eighth and Roberto Osuna finished (see full recap). 

Pirates win 8th straight on road, sweep Brewers 3-1
MILWAUKEE -- Ivan Nova threw six sharp innings before leaving early because of a hurting left hamstring and the Pittsburgh Pirates hit three solo homers to rally past the Milwaukee Brewers 3-1 on Sunday for their eighth straight road victory.

John Jaso and Gregory Polanco each homered in the sixth off Brewers starter Chase Anderson (7-11) to complete Pittsburgh's first sweep at Miller Park since 2004. Starling Marte added a solo shot in the eighth.

Nova (4-0) retired 10 of his final 11 batters after allowing Jonathan Villar's solo homer in the third. He scattered three hits and struck out four before being pinch hit for in the seventh.

Tony Watson pitched a clean ninth for his 10th save in 13 opportunities (see full recap).

Archer strikes out 10, Rays hit 3 HRs in 10-4 win vs Astros
HOUSTON -- Chris Archer struck out 10 in seven innings, Corey Dickerson hit a three-run homer and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Houston Astros 10-4 on Sunday.

Matt Duffy and Nick Franklin also went deep for the last-place Rays, who have homered in 21 of their last 24 games.

Houston, in the hunt for an AL wild card, had won three straight.

Archer (8-17) gave up three runs and four hits with two walks. With his strikeout of A.J. Reed in the sixth, the right-hander joined David Price and James Shields as the only Tampa Bay pitchers with multiple 200-strikeout seasons.

The Rays jumped out early against Doug Fister.

Fister (12-9) allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, the fourth time in his past seven starts he has permitted four or more runs (see full recap). 

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

Calming presence behind plate, A.J. Ellis provides offensive spark in Phillies' win over Mets

BOX SCORE

NEW YORK -- A.J. Ellis’ first game as a Phillie certainly went a lot better than Carlos Ruiz’s first game as a Dodger.

Ellis’ first hit with his new club helped the Phils salvage one game of a weekend series with the New York Mets on Sunday afternoon. The Phillies won it, 5-1 (see Instant Replay), behind a solid start from Vince Velasquez, excellent bullpen work and Ellis’ big hit, a tie-breaking, two-run double in the top of the seventh.

The Phillies had lost the first two games of the series by a combined score of 21-5. Their pitchers gave up eight homers in the first two games.

On Sunday, Velasquez and a quartet of relievers held the Mets to seven hits, all singles.

Ellis joined the Phillies just 24 hours earlier after being traded from the Dodgers on Thursday. He had been with that club his whole career.

Ruiz, of course, had been with the Phillies his whole career.

Ruiz’s first game with the Dodgers did not go nearly as smooth. The veteran catcher had trouble handling the pitches of closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Friday night and that contributed to the Dodgers blowing a one-run lead and losing to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings.

Leaving the Dodgers was difficult and emotional for Ellis. He was able to bury himself in the game Sunday and came away feeling pretty good.

“It’s just great to be playing baseball again,” he said, standing in front of his locker, a blue Dodgers equipment bag (that will soon be swapped out for a Phillies bag) at his feet. “You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then just play again.

“Regardless of what’s happened in the last four days, it feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win.”

During his 24 or so hours with the Phillies, Ellis has immersed himself in learning a new staff of pitchers. He caught starters Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson in the bullpen before Saturday’s game and warmed up several relievers during that game.

On Sunday morning, he arrived at Citi Field, saw his name in the lineup and immediately began prepping to catch Velasquez, the hardest-thrower on the Phillies’ starting staff.

Velasquez bounced back from three poor outings in which he gave up 19 runs in 17 1/3 innings and held a hot Mets lineup to a run over five innings. The only negative was that Velasquez could not pitch deeper into the game because his command was poor and needed 103 pitches to complete the five innings.

Nonetheless, Ellis, who was the personal catcher for Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles, liked what he saw of Velasquez.

“His pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three,” Ellis said. “The stuff is electric. He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it’s going to be really, really special.

“So I’m excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited to work with him and (pitching coach) Bob McClure and (No. 1 catcher) Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, things we see, and together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career.”

Two things are going to help the 24-year-old Velasquez reach his potential.

First is good health. He’s had arm problems in the past and there remain concerns about his long-term durability. That’s why the Phillies are closely monitoring his workload as this season winds down.

Second is command, control, economy of pitches – whatever you want to call it. Velasquez needs to be more efficient. Too many times he’s left games in the middle innings because of a high pitch count.

“Definitely,” he responded when asked if lowering his pitch counts and working deeper into games was the key to his improvement. “It’s going to help the longevity, it saves the bullpen, it helps out everybody. Not just on my end, but the whole team in general.

“And,” he joked, “then I can also work on my swing by getting some more at-bats.”

Despite the high pitch count, Velasquez walked just one. He struck out seven. He is up to 129 innings for the season. That includes five innings in a rehab game at Double A Reading. The Phillies will look to keep him at about 150 innings for the season. That could be three, four or five more starts, depending on how long the right-hander lasts. He’s averaged just over five innings in his starts this season.

“I think that would be the right move,” Velasquez said of the 150-inning target.