We are a little over four weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3. Rumours are beginning to catch steam. We’ve already seen some action earlier this week, with the Vancouver Canucks sending Bo Horvat to the New York Islanders for winger Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty, and a protected first-round pick. The action will only pick up as the weeks run by.
The Flames committed themselves to trying to contend when they acquired Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar, and signed Nazem Kadri in free agency this summer. So, while they find themselves ninth in the Western Conference right now, they almost have to buy at the deadline to try and make it. If they miss, it’s another wrinkle in the future of Flames General Manager Brad Treliving, who doesn’t have a contract beyond the 2022–23 season. If he wants to stay on as Flames GM beyond this year, making the playoffs would help his case.
So, we will focus on some additions that the Flames could make. We start it off with a winger out of Philadelphia, who Sportsnet’s NHL Insider Elliotte Friedman connected to the Flames on The Jeff Marek Show yesterday.
Elliotte Friedman connects the Flames to James van Riemsdyk
Elliotte Friedman dropped a nugget on The Jeff Mark Show talking about James van Riemsdyk: “It wouldn’t surprise me if Calgary was looking at van Riemsdyk. I think Philadelphia is getting to the short strokes with him and I do think Calgary is potentially one of the teams.”
Friedman also noted that “a player like van Riemsdyk is the type of player Calgary is going to add.”
Last time I wrote an article about somebody connected to the Flames via Friedman, it was Sonny Milano this past summer. That of course came true, as the Flames signed Milano to a PTO for training camp.
van Riemsdyk is having a decent 2022–23 campaign with the Philadelphia Flyers, putting up eight goals and 21 points in 31 games. Injuries have always been a concern for the 33-year-old veteran winger, but when he’s healthy and consistent, he hits a pace around 30 goals and 50 points in a full season. In his 910-game career, van Riemsdyk has 296 goals and 583 points. That gives van Riemsdyk a 0.64 P/GP pace over his career.
The 6’3″, 217 lbs winger is an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2022–23 season, and has a cap hit of $7M. However, he is actually only owed $4M in salary for the 2022–23 season, after a $1M signing bonus was paid in the summer, per CapFriendly.com. Speaking of cap hits of $7M this season, Nazem Kadri has spent a considerable amount of time with JVR, as the two played together on the Toronto Maple Leafs from the 2012–13 season thru the 2017–18 season.
van Riemsdyk fits the Flames checklist
Why are the Flames interested in van Riemsdyk? Well, he checks a lot of boxes for what they’re looking for.
We can assume a few things. First, the team is looking for a scoring winger. The Flames need goals. Treliving has been in the media saying this team needed a scoring winger since the summer, and that hasn’t changed. Second, the team is going to look at the rental market as extensions for Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar, and Dan Vladar kick in for the 2023–24 season. Third, Calgary always looks for versatile players. A great example of this is the acquisition of Tyler Toffoli and Calle Jarnkrok ahead of last year’s trade deadline. Both players have to ability to play multiple forward positions.
That puts together a checklist of the following:
- UFA at the end of 2022–23
- Winger with the ability to score goals
- Versatile player that can play multiple positions
- Right shot is a plus
Well, van Riemsdyk checks the first three boxes easily. He is a UFA at the end of 2022–23, can play both the left wing and right wing, and has made a career of putting the puck in the back of the net. He’s a guy with great net-front and forechecking microstats, both of which would be perfect fits in the Flames system. He’s not the fastest guy around, which the Flames are missing, but does cover the areas of the checklist we outlined.
van Riemsdyk has been about as consistent of a shooter as you can find. His shooting percentage over the last four seasons? 12.6%, 12.9%, 12.9%, and 12.7%. You know exactly what you are going to get with van Riemsdyk. Among regulars on the Flames, only Brett Ritchie, Dillon Dube, Elias Lindholm, and Huberdeau have a higher shooting percentage than van Riemsdyk this season.
Diving deeper into van Riemsdyk’s game
What makes van Riemsdyk effective? Well, looking into the isolated 5v5 impact, courtesy of HockeyViz.com, we can see that JVR has generated a ton of excess shots from around the net-front. In the chart below, we can see that throughout his entire career, there is a ton of dark red near the front of the net. That is exactly what the Flames need. His defensive game certainly isn’t outstanding by any means, but it has improved in recent years. van Riemsdyk struggled defensively in his first six seasons, but ever since, he has generally trended positive.
Looking at he graphics below, also courtesy of HockeyViz.com, we can see the Flames are generating excess shots at 5v5 from just about every area of the ice besides one—the front of the net. This has become a major concern, and we can see this not only at 5v5, but also on the power play. The PP Offence shows an interesting story with lots of shot generation from the left/middle, but the right side is struggling, particularly by the net-front. The Flames definitely miss Matthew Tkachuk and his play in tight. Getting a big bodied player like JVR—who has made a career out of going to the front of the net and causing some havoc—is exactly what the Flames need.
Now glancing at the charts below, again courtesy of HockeyViz.com, we can see the impacts that van Riemsdyk is having on the Flyers. When JVR is on the ice, the Flyers are a better team in both the offensive and defensive ends. You’ll notice the Flyers have little shot generation from the middle of the ice and at the net-front without JVR. That changes when JVR is on the ice, as the Flyers are getting excess shot generation near the net-front, particularly on the left side on the net.
Should the Flames trade for JVR?
In short, James van Riemsdyk checks pretty much every box for the player the Flames are looking to acquire. He is 33 years old and does have an injury history. But, has put together an effective career being a scoring winger with an edge at the net-front. You can plunk JVR at the net-front on either power play unit, and that is a significant upgrade over what the Flames have right now.
Due to the abundance of winger talent available at this year’s deadline, coupled with the lack of cap space around the league, few teams have to capabilities of trading for JVR’s full $7M cap hit, even if the Flyers retained 50%. This means that the Flames are in a good position to get van Riemsdyk at a cost that will likely be less than anticipated.
The Flames would acquire two UFAs: one scoring winger and one right shot defenceman. They free up Rooney and his cap for next year, while sending the Flyers a high draft pick in 2024.
We have tons of deadline coverage coming over the next month, so stay tuned!