BREAKING NEWS: James van Riemsdyk Traded to Toronto for Luke Schenn


One year later to the day, and almost to the minute, that the Flyers packaged Mike Richards to Los Angeles and Jeff Carter to Columbus, the Flyers made another big trade. Today, the team sent LW James van Riemsdyk to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for D Luke Schenn, who is Flyers’ C Brayden Schenn’s brother. The deal has been thrown around the various hockey websites on the Internet for quite some time, but the assumption was always that there would be more pieces involved. One pre-draft scenario that was floating around was JVR and the 20th pick for Schenn and the 5th pick. However, today Paul Holmgren accepted Brian Burke’s offer of JVr for Schenn, straight-up, making the next couple weeks a lot more interesting for the Flyers. Let’s break down the impact of this deal on a few different issues for the multiple parties involved.

First of all, the trade. Why did it make sense for the Flyers? The organization has long been divided on JVR. Some saw a future 40 goal scorer who had the perfect combination of size and strength with speed and finesse. Others saw a player who lacked toughness, was injury-prone, and was reluctant to use his size to his advantage. The 2011 postseason swayed organizational opinion towards locking him up with a 6 year, $25.5M contract extension that takes place starting with the 2012-2013 regular season. They felt comfortable enough with JVR’s expected offensive output that they traded Mike Richards and Jeff Carter prior to the season. But after a disappointing, injury-filled season that saw him notch 24 points in just 43 games played during the regular season, and 2 points in 7 postseason games a year after his dominating 7 goals in 11 games the previous postsesason, the Flyers apparently soured on him. He was rumored to be a major piece in any deal involving Columbus LW Rick Nash or Anaheim LW Bobby Ryan. But those trades wouldn’t fill the Flyers’ need for defense. And today, they feel that they did fill much of that need by acquiring Luke Schenn. Schenn is a hulking defenseman, measuring in at 6’2, 230. He’s a traditional stay-at-home defenseman, something that the Flyers desperately need, and at just 22 years old he’s a young player who could be a part of the Flyers’ core for a very long time. The fact that he’s brothers with Brayden Schenn is just an added bonus. After all, pairing brothers together usually works out. Just ask the Vancouver Canucks about Henrik and Daniel Sedin. However, scouts are split on his future projections. Some see him as a legitimate #1 or #2 defenseman in the future: someone who can play both ways, shutting down forwards in his zone and leading the offense from the point in the other zone. To make this trade, the Flyers would seem to be in this camp. Others aren’t so sure about that, seeing instead a physical defenseman who struggles with his skating and mobility, leading to turnovers and a limited offensive game. I fall more into this camp. Schenn’s numbers in 4 years in Toronto aren’t pretty: 14 goals and 75 points in 310 games, to go along with a -23 +/- rating. I don’t see Schenn developing the necessary skating skills to be a dominant top-pairing defenseman in the NHL. I see him as more comparable to Nick Grossmann than, say, Chris Pronger or Shea Weber, which is why I’m disappointed with the trade. For Toronto, they add what they see to be a very skilled offensive player to their depleted forward corps, and move a struggling young defenseman to clear space for a new, young crop of blueliners waiting in the wings. It’s worth noting, however, that young defensemen often struggle, and fare much better in a second organization. The Flyers have traded for young defensemen in the past and had it work out great for them, most notably with Braydon Coburn and Matt Carle. I would have been okay with the JVR-Schenn swap if there had been more coming over to the Flyers from Toronto’s side. But, unfortunately, there isn’t, making this a pure hockey trade. The teams swapped struggling young players at each other’s position of need, each hoping that their new acquisition will benefit from a change of scenery. It’s a high-risk, high-reward proposition for both sides, and it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out over the next couple years.

How does this affect other potential trades? The Flyers have two issues at hand now. One is the logjam at defense. They’ve got a glut of defensemen under contract for next season that range from “serviceable” to “above-average”: Schenn, Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nick Grossmann, Andrej Meszaros, Erik Gustafsson, and Andreas Lilja, along with Matt Carle, who has reportedly already agreed to a deal in principle to remain in Philadelphia, and Marc-Andre Bourdon, who is a restricted free agent expected to be retained. That’s 9 defensemen who could play every night, and with the Flyers only dressing 6, one or two should be moved. The other issue is a loss of offensive production with van Riemsdyk’s departure. JVR’s departure, combined with Jaromir Jagr’s departure looming come July 1, means that the Flyers could be looking for offense this summer. With the team set down the middle with Claude Giroux, Danny Briere, Sean Couturier, and Brayden Schenn at center (although Schenn could be moved to wing and Max Talbot would take over as the 4th line center), the team will be looking to add wingers. JVR was a LW and Jagr is a RW, so the team could be looking to add one of each. Coincidentally (or maybe not), unrestricted free agent-to-be New Jersey Devil Zach Parise is a LW (more on him later), and Bobby Ryan, the Anaheim Duck who hails from Cherry Hill, NJ and has been the subject of trade rumors for a while now, plays RW. Ryan, a 30+ goal scorer in each of his 4 NHL seasons, ripped the Ducks organization in an article written by Randy Miller for the Courier Post (link here: and expressed a desire to be traded, with Philadelphia as his preferred destination. Some reports say that he went even further, demanding a trade specifically to Philadelphia. With the Ducks thin on defense, the Flyers could use one or two of their defensemen (say, Andrej Meszaros and/or Erik Gustafsson) and a few draft picks to pry Ryan away from Anaheim, filling a hole on the top line left by Jaromir Jagr and setting up a Scott Hartnell-Claude Giroux-Bobby Ryan trio that would strike fear into the hearts of the opposition.

How does this affect the Flyers’ free agent strategy? Flyers beat reporter Sam Carchidi reported that the Flyers’ three main free agent targets are Zach Parise, Ryan Suter (both of whom I’ve written posts about on this site), and Justin Schultz. Schultz is an interesting case. He was an Anaheim Ducks draft pick in 2008, and will turn 22 on July 6th. He has decided, however, that he does not want to play for Anaheim in the future, and due to a CBA loophole of sorts, he becomes an unrestricted free agent on Monday morning. The offers will start pouring in then, although he cannot officially sign a contract until July 1. Money will not be an issue here: each team can offer him an entry-level deal at a $3.8M cap hit over 3 years. Instead, Schultz will be able to choose where he plays based on fit, ice time, and other factors. With the Flyers’ need for quality defensemen and the addition of Schenn, they can offer Schultz something that most teams cannot: ice time and opportunity on a competitive team, as well as a young, promising partner for the future. In addition, the money they saved by trading JVR for Schenn will help them in free agency this summer. Suter doesn’t seem to be an option in Philadelphia, but Parise is. With the hole at LW left by van Riemsdyk’s departure, the Flyers will probably be big players for Parise. They can offer him a sizeable contract on a perrennial Stanley Cup contender. It’s no guarantee that they sign him, but they’ve got as good of a shot as anyone, especially with the long-term money freed up by trading van Riemsdyk (Schenn makes $3.6M for the next 2 years, JVR was being paid $4.25M for the next 6 years). If Parise and Schultz were signed, along with a Ryan trade, the Flyers would put themselves in position to contend for both the short-term and long-term.

Finally, the future. JVR was once seen as a pivotal part of the Flyers’ future. Now, he’s gone. This is another example of a troubling trend that started with Jeff Carter and Mike Richards last summer. Between van Riemsdyk, Carter, and Richards, they had 26 years left on their contracts. Each of them were promised to be a Flyer for the forseeable future, and each were traded. Claude Giroux is a free agent after this upcoming season. While he’s said he likes it in Philadelphia and will be open to negotiations, I’m sure he’s wondering whether it’s going to be a smart decision to sign with the Flyers for the long-term. Why would he sign a lengthy contract with a team that could easily turn around and trade him the very next day. I’m not saying this will be an issue, but it very well could become one. It seems like Paul Holmgren might have burned one too many bridges with this trade. We’ll see.

As you can see, this trade of James van Riemsdyk for Luke Schenn will have a very large impact on the present and future incarnations of the Philadelphia Flyers in many different areas of the team. Over the next few weeks (and the next few years), we’ll see what moves the Flyers make in conjunction with this trade to try to put the team in position to win a Stanley Cup in 2012 and contend for multiple cups in the future.