Toronto Maple Leafs: The James van Riemsdyk conundrum

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: James van Riemsdyk
TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 9: James van Riemsdyk /

James van Riemsdyk says he’s focused on what happens on the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but what does the future hold for him?

The question of what the Toronto Maple Leafs should do with James van Riemsdyk is nothing new. However, it doesn’t change the fact it’s an important one to ask.

In addition, the question is fast taking on more importance, with every passing day. After this season, van Riemsdyk will become an unrestricted free agent.

It’s fair to say most Leafs fans trust the combination of Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock. And yet, this doesn’t make the JVR conundrum any less challenging, even for this trio.

On the positive side, the 2007 second overall draft pick is a gifted offensive force, who has all the qualities you look for in a forward. The guy can score goals and — for what it’s worth — has ranked second, second, first, fourth and third respectively in this category, during his five seasons in Toronto.

You can even make an argument for van Riemsdyk’s passing skills being underrated. Regardless, he offers the type of threat few other teams — if any — can boast on their third line.

However, it’s important to be objective in this matter and examine the third line aspect further. As we reported, Mitch Marner has been moved, due to his combination with JVR and Tyler Bozak being ineffective when it comes to playing defence.

Entering Tuesday’s game against the Washington Capitals, as per Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star, no other Leafs line had given up as many goals. This is frustrating, specifically if we concentrate on van Riemsdyk.

With his size and speed, the 28-year-old should really be taking more advantage of these attributes, when it comes to the defensive side of his game. At this point though, you have to wonder if he will ever fulfill his potential in this area?

In fairness to van Riemsdyk, Marner and Bozak, the Toronto Maple Leafs have struggled in general, when it comes to allowing goals. Entering Tuesday’s slate of games, only five teams have given up more.

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On the flip side, no team has scored more, which leads us to the next part of the fog surrounding JVR’s future in Toronto. The Leafs would like to further strengthen their blue line, which makes the winger a tantalizing trade option.

In one respect, the Leafs don’t have to worry about the goals suddenly drying up, given all their offensive options. And yet, as already mentioned, how many other teams can boast someone of van Reimsdyk’s calibre on their third line?

One final factor to consider in all of this, is the player himself. If the Middletown, New Jersey native has his way, he wants to remain in Toronto long-term.

In fact, TSN‘s Pierre LeBrun offered some interesting speculation relating to this. Speaking on Inside Trading, LeBrun suggested JVR would be more than willing to do an eight-year deal, which is team-friendly to the Leafs.

All in all, it is easy to understand why deciding van Riemsdyk’s future is not a straight-forward situation. About the only thing we can predict with any semblance of confidence, is that whatever the Toronto Maple Leafs end up doing with him, there will be some regret.

Next: Zach Hyman doing his part

What’s your take on JVR’ career to date? Are you confident in the winger remaining with the Toronto Maple Leafs past this season? Do you even want him to? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.