Next month, Nathan MacKinnon is likely going to win the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player. The 22-year old superstar had a breakout season, and was a part of one of the best lines in the NHL. Along with Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen, MacKinnon carried the offsense for the Avalanche all season. If this team is going to get better, they’re going to have to start icing a middle-6 that can pose more of a threat to opponents.
Tyson Jost and Alex Kerfoot will grow with experience, but that’s still not enough to form the kind of balanced lineup needed to be a legitimate contender. The Avalanche need to find more scoring elsewhere and many fans thing that James van Riemsdyk might be the answer.
I’m not so sure.
Would van Riemsdyk improve the team’s offensive production? Without a doubt. But the 29-year old unrestricted free agent is almost certainly going to get a contract this summer that might not make his on-ice value worth while.
He’s a tremendous goal scorer
There’s no debating that Jame van Riemsdyk is as good a goal scorer as there is on the market this summer. He’s got a great shot, provides a net presence and has some of the best hands you’ll ever see on a guy his size.
His 65 goals over the past two seasons puts him 15th in the league in that category. He scores goals - a lot of them - and despite the misconception that he is a bit of a powerplay specialist, most of his goals come at 5v5.
JVR’s 1.29 even strength goals-per-hour puts him barely behind Nathan MacKinnon’s 1.31 G/60 rate - and significantly higher than any other Avalanche player from last season. James van Riemsdyk also likes to shoot the puck a ton. His 10.1 shots/60 would have put him second on the Avs - again, behind MacKinnon. Most of these shots come from in very close to the net and in the low slot. He likes to plant himself down low and has the hand-eye coordination to get his sick on the puck in traffic.
While his assist total dropped significantly this season, based on his career average, that is an outlier. Anyone who signs JVR should be expecting somewhere around 30 goals and 60 points a year for the next few seasons.
He’s been put in a position to succeed
Over the past two seasons, Mike Babcock has steadily decreased JVR’s even strength ice time, while at the same time increasing his oZone start percentage. As Babcock dropped van Riemsdyk’s, his production - and shot metrics - improved. With a whopping 63% offensive zone starts, the LEafs’ coach clearly knew how he wanted to use JVR.
This is a good sign for a team like the Avalanche that would likely have to pay JVR as a top line player, but would almost certainly want to play him on the second line. Sheltering JVR’s minutes is the best way to maximize his output.
How would he fit?
James van Riemsdyk is more of an auxiliary player more than anything else. He won’t drive the play of his line, but he’s a perfect complement for someone that can. A lot like Mikko Rantanen, JVR’s strength comes when playing off of a possession driver. He then has the elite finishing skills to take advantage of the scoring chances created by his linemates. His big body allows him to create space as well as out muscle defenders down low and in front of the net.
In Toronto, it was Mitch Marner that drove the line for a season and a half. Marner was the creator while JVR was the finisher. Alex Kerfoot plays a very similar style of game to Marner. He wants the puck on his stick and can use his creativity to open up scoring chances for his linemates. Putting JVR on a line with Kerfoot would likely create a second line that is a lot more dangerous than any we saw this past season.
James van Riemsdyk is going to get a big one. It’s not going to be the cap hit that will be an issue - one can easily justify paying van Riemsdyk close to $7 million a season - it’s the term that could be tough to swallow. By all indications, JVR understands that this is his one big chance to cash in, and that he’ll be looking to make out on a 7-year contract. While a big cap hit will be fine for the first few years, down the road, you’ll be paying $7m-ish to a player heading into his mid-30s - and that’s not something you want to be doing.
An argument has been made that since JVR doesn’t play like a typical power forward, he won’t age as poorly as other guys his size. He doesn’t have the same kind of mileage on his body, so we won’t see as steep a decline in production as we saw from a guy like David Backes. That might be the case, but is it a gamble you want to be taking in a salary cap world?
There’s no doubt JVR would be a perfect on-ice fit for the Avalanche. His skill set fits in perfectly with the core of this team and he would fill the giant need for secondary scoring. He just might not be worth the big contract he’ll inevitably receive on the open market.
What do you think? Should the Avalanche pursue James van Riemsdyk on July 1st?
Should the Avalanche pursue JVR this summer?
This poll is closed