Deadline approaching for Leafs to make decision on JVR

MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 14: James van Riemsdyk
MONTREAL, QC - OCTOBER 14: James van Riemsdyk /

James van Riemsdyk would reportedly be prepared to accept five or six years at $6 million per season, but is it low enough for the Toronto Maple Leafs to re-sign him or do they need to move him before the NHL trade deadline?

Anytime James van Riemsdyk‘s name has come up recently, the overriding sentiment has been he will not be playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs next season. The belief is they won’t be able to afford him, especially with other clubs likely to come in with lucrative offers.

From van Riemsdyk’s perspective, it is pretty much common knowledge his preference is to remain in Southern Ontario. In that respect, he is apparently doing what he can, to make this possibility become a reality.

Earlier this week, TSN‘s Bob McKenzie said he believe’s the 28-year-old wants a five-year, $30 million deal. McKenzie’s colleague Darren Dreger later appeared on TSN 1050, quoting six years and $36 million.

Whether it’s five or six years, this basically works out at $6 million per season. This is a very reasonable figure, especially given van Riemsdyk can certainly command more, and again alludes to his preference to stay in Toronto.

Of course, there is the small matter of the salary cap to consider. Throw in the upcoming contract negotiations with Auston Mathews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, and it’s still debatable if the Leafs can afford to keep JVR, even at $6 million per season.

Of the three players mentioned, Matthews will understandably see the biggest jump in his cap hit. Currently earning $925,000, it’s believed he will jump up to around $10 million per season.

As we reported back in December, the salary cap for next season is projected to increase between $3-7 million. Essentially, even an increase of $7 million would not be enough to cover Matthews’ new contract alone, never mind potential deals for Nylander and Marner.

On top of this, the Leafs have several other unrestricted free agents to contend with after this season, including the likes of Tyler Bozak and Roman Polak. The more you think about it, the less likely it seems van Riemsdyk will return for the 2018/19 campaign.

And yet, it still seems crazy to think the 2007 second overall draft pick won’t be back. Considering his current cap hit of $4.25 million, surely there has to be a way to make it work with someone who would theoretically only cost an extra $1.75 million next season?

Plus, it’s not as if we’re talking about some so-so talent here. Van Riemsdyk offers a combination of speed, talent and size which is unique to the Leafs and arguably the NHL in general.

More from Toronto Maple Leafs

The winger is tied for the team lead in goals with Matthews and is on course to set a new personal best this season. In addition, his passing skills are underrated.

About the only real criticism you can make of van Riemsdyk is that he should be better defensively. Regardless, we’re talking about a talent who plays on your third line.

In our humble opinion, we have full confidence in Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Mike Babcock. If there’s anyone who can make it work with JVR, it’s this trio.

For example, maybe – maybe — Matthews takes slightly less than $10 million per season, for the good of the team. Perhaps Marner can be put on the back-burner until after next season, when he becomes a restricted free agent and the salary cap (hopefully) increases again. And so on.

Unfortunately for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the biggest issue which goes against them is time, with the Feb. 26 trade deadline looming. They need to decide what to do with van Riemsdyk asap, because six weeks goes by in the blink of an eye in the world of the NHL.

Next: 4 targets for the Leafs in the 2018 draft

Where are you at with the JVR situation? Taking everything into account, would you trade him before the deadline? Or do you believe the Toronto Maple Leafs can agree a deal to keep him around long-term? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.