Toronto Maple Leafs: James van Riemsdyk’s complicated future

TAMPA, FL - MARCH 20: James van Riemsdyk #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs passes during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on March 20, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 20: James van Riemsdyk #25 of the Toronto Maple Leafs passes during a game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on March 20, 2018 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

James van Riemsdyk has scored eight goals in his last six game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, raising further discussion about his future with the club.

Things have been going well for James van Riemsdyk lately. His stellar form of late for the Toronto Maple Leafs, has seen him break his own record for total goals in a season with 34 in 74 games.

It has been well documented his status as an unrestricted free agent this summer leaves the team with a tougher decision than they might have had at the start of the season.

So what should the Leafs consider when they address this situation at the end of the current campaign?

We know 34 goals in a season is extremely difficult to replace unless a team can land a proven free agent, which can prove to be expensive, or a generational talent via the draft, which is not always a sure thing.

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The winger has hit 20 goals in all-but-two of the seasons he has spent in Toronto. He has been a consistent and reliable producer, even during the ‘dark times’ of the Leafs.

He has good chemistry with other players on the team, such as Tyler Bozak and, on occasion, Mitch Marner – which has helped him remain consistent and one of the top performers on the team for years.

He is producing some of his best offence during a season where his ice time has been greatly reduced, currently averaging the third-lowest of his career.

Rose-tinted glasses certainly will be worn by many Leafs fans if they see him depart, remembering the positives he has brought to the team even during times of difficulty.

The fear of losing him to an Eastern Conference team, or worse a team in the Atlantic Division, could make the Leafs seriously consider keeping him around.

However, van Riemsdyk turns 29 in May and is rumoured to be looking for a contract that will pay him $6 million a year, an increase on his current cap hit of $4.25 million.

The team faces difficult contracts to negotiate this year and next with William Nylander, Marner and Auston Matthews , who are expected to get big contracts.

If JVR demands a long contract that will affect the Leafs’ cap situation negatively going forward, it would be reasonable to expect him to be let go.

His offensive output is desirable, especially for a team that is hoping to compete for the Stanley Cup over the next few years, but their financial security is not something that can be gambled or mismanaged.

There is also the concern that, with age, JVR will not perform at the level he has shown recently and could suffer a sharp decline once he’s over the 30-year-old mark.

Some players can keep up their performances well into their mid-30s, and JVR doesn’t look like he is stopping just yet, but the worry will certainly be there for management.

The Leafs also have some younger options who will cost less on the cap, that they could explore if JVR’s contract demands don’t let up.

While they may not be likely to hit 30+ goals right out of the gate, they have the potential to be contributors in other areas while providing some offensive punch.

Andreas Johnsson scored his first NHL goal with the club recently and his season-long partner Miro Aaltonen could also look to make a step up next season. Then there are younger players like Carl Grundstrom, Mason Marchment, Jeremy Bracco, Yegor Korshkov, Dmytro Timashov and Adam Brooks.

If JVR is willing to take a team-friendly deal that would keep him on a similar salary to what he earns now and give him the chance to compete for the Stanley Cup each season with the Leafs, then the team should seriously consider keeping him.

But if his contract demands are too high, potentially damaging the team’s chances to compete further down the road, then it is time to sadly cut that cord and bid him a fond farewell.

Next: Impact of another Expansion Draft on the Maple Leafs

Leafs Nation, what do you think the team should do with JVR? What contract do you think would be reasonable for him? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!