Latest Leafs Speculation – March 21, 2018
Five potential destinations for James van Riemsdyk plus the Leafs possible plans at center in your NHL rumor mill.
TSN: Craig Button believes the free-agent market will determine where Toronto Maple Leafs winger James van Riemsdyk signs this summer. He feels van Riemsdyk may have to give up some money to stay with the Leafs. If he goes to market, Button thinks he will attract plenty of interest.
The Edmonton Oilers tops Button’s list of possible destinations for van Riemsyk, giving him the opportunity to play with Connor McDavid plus he could help their woeful power play. Next is the Carolina Hurricanes, as he can bring size and presence to their anemic offensive game. The New Jersey Devils could be another option, as they have salary-cap room, Taylor Hall and some good centers.
Host Mark Roe suggested the Buffalo Sabres, as van Riemsdyk would have the opportunity to play alongside Jack Eichel. Button admits he’d be a great fit there but doubts the Leafs winger would be interested in joining a very flawed Sabres roster. He suggested the Arizona Coyotes might be a better fit, given their considerable salary-cap space plus their significant improvement in the second half of this season. Button feels they’re moving in the right direction.
Roe and Button agreed the Columbus Blue Jackets would be “an unbelievable fit” as they’re a contender that need help on the power play and will have some salary coming off the books this summer.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: All of this is merely conjecture on their part, as both admit they don’t know what van Riemsdyk’s plans are once this season is over. Of the clubs they bandied about, the Blue Jackets and Devils could be the best options if he wants to join a contender. As per Cap Friendly, the Jackets have over $57 million invested in 17 players for 2018-19 while the Devils have over $54 million committed to 16 players.
The Sabres, Hurricanes and Coyotes have more cap space but van Riemsdyk might be leery of signing with rebuilding clubs at this stage of his career. The chance to play with McDavid could be tempting but I’m not sure how keen the Oilers will be to take on another high-salaried forward.
Comps for JVR? Cam Atkinson, 7 yrs x $5.875M; T.J. Oshie, 8 yrs x $5.75M. Both with similar goal totals to JVR last couple years. Does 6-7 years at between $6M and $6.5M aav for JVR make sense? Cap is going up this summer…
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 15, 2018
THE ATHLETIC: Jonas Siegel recently wondered if the Leafs will give William Nylander a shot as a full-time center next season. Noting Tomas Plekanec and possibly Tyler Bozak could depart via free agency, Siegel points out there aren’t many good long-term options (apart from John Tavares) at center via the UFA market. Winnipeg Jets center Paul Stastny is 32 years old and could seek more than the Leafs are wiling to pay while long-time San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton is 39 and coming off an injury-riddled season. The Leafs could pursue a trade but Siegel notes not many teams will be willing to trade a quality center this summer. Even if they re-sign Bozak, Nylander might be their most attractive option at center.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Using Nylander at center would be a more affordable option for the Leafs than blowing their brains out signing Tavares to a huge contract. That move would also hamstring the Leafs’ efforts to bolster their defensive depth, especially if they harbor a desire to pursue someone such as Los Angeles Kings blueliner Drew Doughty if he decides to test the market next summer.