In Van Riemsdyk, Flyers Might Still Have an Ace Up Their Sleeve

Kevin LagowskiCorrespondent IMarch 30, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 22:  Second overall pick James vanRiemsdyk of the Philadelphia FLyers poses onstage after being drafted in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 22, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The trading deadline is long gone. It was unusually quiet in Philadelphia anyway, with the Flyers failing to make any significant moves, largely due to salary cap constraints.


But even though there are a mere seven games left in the regular season, the Flyers may still have one more move that could give them an added jolt heading into the playoffs: adding top prospect James van Riemsdyk to the mix.


With van Riemsdyk’s University of New Hampshire eliminated from the NCAA postseason on Sunday, he is free to leave college behind and join the professional ranks at any time.


Van Riemsdyk was already given a long look in training camp this past Sept. before he ultimately opted to return to UNH for his sophomore year.


The Flyers were reportedly miffed at his decision not to turn pro, but the move worked out for van Riemsdyk, as he led the Wildcats in scoring and cemented his reputation as the top prospect in college hockey.


He also starred again at the World Junior Championship for Team USA, finishing seventh in scoring after leading the entire tournament the previous year.


His recent body of work speaks for itself, and he is clearly ready to take the step to the NHL. But the decision about whether or not to ink his first professional contract within the next few weeks will rest with van Riemsdyk alone, as Flyers GM Paul Holmgren has made it clear that he will not pressure his top prospect to sign.


Not only would his turning pro give the Flyers a shot in the arm for the rest of the season, but the move makes financial sense for van Riemsdyk, whose stock will never be higher than it is now. And with the salary cap slated to go down in the coming years, he and all young players should strike while the iron is hot.


In an ideal situation, the Flyers would bring the second overall pick of the 2007 draft into the fold for the final three or four games of the regular season as a trial run.


And even if they did not have full confidence in throwing him into the playoff machine, regular practice with the team and witnessing the intensity of the games in person could only help his growth.


Getting a few games under his belt this season will speed up the process of making him a regular fixture of the lineup and the hope of ultimately seeing him develop into a premier power forward.


And given the strong likelihood of Mike Knuble leaving via free agency this summer, having van Riemsdyk get some experience now would be a great help to the team.


Van Riemsdyk was the Flyers’ reward for suffering through such an awful 2006-07 season, and the organization and its fans would like to see him in orange and black as soon as possible.


Hopefully he can see that turning pro very soon is the best decision for his personal career and for the organization that has put so much stock into him. Regardless of what happens, he figures to be a big part of the Flyers for a long time.


But there is no time like the present.