5 Reasons Leafs' Trade for Van Riemsdyk Makes Sense
While both players are young and possess potential, both have also been said to have underachieved so far in their short careers.
From the Leafs perspective, while they give up some physicality in this trade, they add a player with a blend of size and skill to their forward unit—something they have long coveted.
As many trades as there are in the NHL—especially ones concerning the Leafs—this trade will be debated and discussed for some time.
With that in mind, here are five reasons the trade makes sense for the Maple Leafs.
Leafs Get Bigger Up Front
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It is no secret that the Leafs possessed a desire to add size to their forward corps, and the addition of van Riemsdyk certainly fills a need.
James van Riemsdyk isn't a physical power forward who throws his weight around like Milan Lucic or Dustin Brown, but his size allows him to play effectively in high-traffic areas and create scoring chances by driving wide off the rush.
While van Riemsdyk has been labelled as "soft" for not delivering punishing hits, he knows how to utilize his size, allowing him to create time and space for himself, as well as his teammates.
His long reach is also an asset, as gap control becomes difficult for opposing defensemen when van Riemsdyk bears down on them thanks to his skating ability.
One player certainly doesn't drastically alter the forward landscape for the Leafs, but van Riemsdyk's infusion of size will make them tougher to play against in the offensive zone.
Improved Skill Level
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Much like van Riemsdyk represents a much-needed injection of size for the Leafs, he also brings skill that will be welcomed with open arms.
Although plagued by injury for much of the 2011-12 season, van Riemsdyk is a skilled forward with the ability to score, as well as distribute the puck.
His skill set will be a helpful addition with the man advantage, and the increased reliance on his talents will lead to more impressive offensive statistics after being buried in Philadelphia due to their offensive depth.
van Riemsdyk's addition also means that he'll likely bump someone down on the depth chart, which is a good thing, since the Leafs have been masquerading too many players as top-six forwards the past few seasons due to their lack of depth.
In an era where impatience reigns supreme, van Reimsdyk, much like Luke Schenn, has been maligned for his slow development. Make no mistake, however, van Riemsdyk possesses potential, the likes of which the Leafs sorely lack with respect to their forwards, save for Nazem Kadri.
Having the title of second-overall draft pick bestowed upon him conjured up images of a rapid ascent to the NHL and significant, immediate contributions upon his arrival. While that hasn't been the case, van Riemsdyk will improve given the increased ice time and responsibility he'll be afforded in Toronto.
It is a stretch to say van Riemsdyk will be a point-per-game player, but he should develop into a consistent 25-plus goal scorer and a 60-70 point producer.
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The addition of van Riemsdyk gives the Leafs another sizable contract. His current deal, complete with a cap hit of $4.25 million, is set to expire at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.
That's a slight increase over the $3.6 million cap hit of Luke Schenn; however, the Leafs will receive more bang for their buck. The 2011-12 season was a trying one for Schenn—one in which his average ice time was cut down by more than six minutes per game.
Though van Riemsdyk earns more, he should see close to 18 minutes per game, along with increased opportunity on the power play.
The luxury of deploying a player such as van Riemsdyk in a top-six role and in a variety of situations is more desirable than playing Schenn in a limited capacity, so the deal makes sense from a financial standpoint.
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James van Riemsdyk has played the wing in the NHL thus far, but he has experience at the pivot position. While the Leafs currently have a glut of centers in the mix, if need be van Riemsdyk can line up in the middle.
Given the lack of size down the middle for Toronto, it is something to consider, though he'll likely line up on the wing as his career in Toronto gets underway.
The versatility of van Riemsdyk is also an asset in the case of injury to one of the Leafs' top forwards, such as Phil Kessel or Joffrey Lupul. Then, van Riemsdyk can move up and down the lineup within the top-six.
He'll also be relied upon to shoulder some of the scoring load, and his addition will allow coach Randy Carlyle to get creative in terms of how he chooses to utilize his top talents.