James Van Riemsdyk is the talk of the town at the moment. He wishes it had more to do with his value on the ice than the value off of it though.
More than a few fans have pegged JVR as the guy to go to another team in order to fill the biggest hole on the blueline. A top 4 right shot defenseman would be a big land for the Toronto Maple Leafs right now and Van Riemsdyk’s trade value would go a long way towards landing that piece.
But what is he worth? To some a mid 1st round pick in what is being called a weak draft would be more than enough to see #25 suit up for another NHL club. Others want a major haul of prospects and picks. Others speak of a happy medium. Myself? I think you’d be foolish to undervalue a consistent 25-30 goal, 50-60 point player with a large frame such as JVR. However, in order to abandon all bias I’m writing this as I research. The idea is that going back to rewrite anything in order to fit my own narrative will be too much work. I have to admit, I’m more than a little lazy when it comes to that.
First lets touch a little bit on his consistency. In the latest Blues News I outlined how, while Van Riemsdyk can disappear from one game to the next, from season to season he produces regularly. I’m going to copy/paste that part because, again, lazy.
Here is how his numbers look since he landed in Toronto for the 2012/13 season.
|Year||Goals||Assists||Points Per Game|
Based on the numbers I think “consistent 25-30 goal, 50-60 point player” is an acceptable label. The real question is what is a player like this truly worth on the trade market?
Dare to Compare
It’s not easy to find players that compare well. There are so many variables to consider such as contract status, player intangibles, team direction and needs. So, I’ll be forced to base it mostly on point production because to keep the players and deals recent we’ll have to keep the comparisons a little broader.
The oldest of the Staal brothers left the Carolina Hurricanes on February 28th, 2016. His team was heading towards a major overhaul and that usually means shipping out your captain. His point per game production pre-trade looked like this:
|Year||Goals||Assists||Points per game|
*numbers only include up to the date of the trade. Not what was produced with new team.
How do they compare? Similar size and production is the big thing here. While Staal was once a 100pt player their more recent production is closer.
How are they different? Position is always a factor, centers are more valuable in general. Also, teams tend to pay more for past production, even if it is the distant past. Staal was going through one of his poorer seasons, was 31 years old at the time, had a no trade clause, and was making a massive amount of money which meant the Hurricanes had to retain 50% of his salary. He was also in the final year of his deal. He was a rental.
What he got in return: Aleksi Saarela (3rd round, #89 overall, 2015 draft), 2nd round pick (2016), 2nd round pick (2017)
I’ll include Hall because it’s the deal that makes everybody laugh, cry, or shudder depending on which team you’re a fan of, and the team situations are eerily similar. This isn’t to say I think Hall and JVR have similar trade value, but the fact that both are scoring left wingers and both teams are/were in need of a top 4 right shot defenseman means I’d be remiss to leave him out.
His point per game production pre-trade:
|Year||Goals||Assists||Points per game|
How do they compare? Production is a big one again here. While Taylor Hall has produced over a point per game in two separate seasons, their past couple of years were more similar.
How are they different? Hall is obviously younger and a higher profile name. His deal had 4 seasons remaining at the time of the trade as well.
What he got in return: Adam Larsson.
While the hockey world was shocked to learn there was nothing else heading to Edmonton for Hall besides Larsson, it’s the Oilers who are currently laughing as they played meaningful playoff games this season. Meanwhile the New Jersey Devils finished towards the bottom of the league and Halls team will once again pick 1st in the NHL draft. The return here, and ensuing results, might be a good example of what the Leafs could do with Van Riemsdyk. Maybe a hockey trade for an undervalued, yet steady right shot defender is just what the doctor ordered. Ignore the sexy names such as Jacob Trouba and Sami Vatanen. If they go this route I’d suggest you expect the unexpected.
Wait, wait, wait!! I said WAIT!!! Let me explain myself before you scoff at me. The production:
|Year||Goals||Assists||Points per game|
How do they compare? The fact that he had 1 year left on his contract at the time of his trade really made this an interesting comparison for me. This wasn’t a rental. It’s not a high profile player like Hall. His name value and contract situation is more like Van Riemsdyks than any other player I can find or think of. He didn’t demand a trade. His team wasn’t in rebuild mode. His team simply saw the writing on the wall, they saw that his time was coming to an end in Boston, so made the decision to move him while his value was up. That’s exactly where the Leafs are with JVR. Their ages at the time of trade (if JVR is traded this summer) will have been the same as well. I think James’ next contract could be just south of the 7 year, 42 million dollar deal signed by Lucic last summer. So, while their games are different, their market value may be closer than you would think at first glance. I’d guess Lucic’s value is just a little higher.
How are they different? The production from Milan Lucic is a little more inconsistent. Or at least it was in these three years with the Bruins. He followed these years up with 55 and 50 point seasons for the Kings and Oilers respectively. I’m including him not just for his production though. Obviously their aggression levels are far different. However, the added physicality brought by Lucic should be cancelled out by the added production from JVR.
What he got in return: 1st round pick (2015), Martin Jones, Colin Miller.
Martin Jones was traded to the San Jose Sharks for Sean Kuraly and a 1st round pick just 4 days later. That changes this deal quite a bit in my opinion. The Bruins knew they had Tuukka Rask so would flip Jones, they also likely knew what the estimated return for Jones would be. Colin Miller had just finished up a season for the Manchester Monarchs that saw him score 52pts in 70 games. Not bad for a kid that was just 22 at the time.
Some other quick comparisons:
Thomas Vanek: stats and position compare well. Rental player. Ageing player. Acquired by Florida from Detroit for Dylan McIlrath and a 3rd round selection (March 1st, 2017)
Mikkel Boedker: stats and position compare well. Rental player. Age is similar. Acquired by Colorado from Arizona for Alex Tanguay, Conner Bleackley, Kyle Wood (Feb 29, 2016)
There are no perfect comparisons here. I didn’t expect there would be. Finding players of his calibre that aren’t rentals is particularly hard. While they all have their merits I think the Lucic trade is the closest. Along with point production, Milan also adds a physical game Van Riemsdyk does not. So, while his value is likely higher, the fact that he wasn’t a rental (while being on a short contract), he was a proven player, and his age is so similar can’t be ignored. My guess would be a similar return as the Bruins got minus Jones. Boston received a “take the best offer” price though and I believe L.A. overpaid some here. They are a team that notoriously covet big strong players, they had been rumored to be in the market for a LW for years and on paper Lucic was the perfect fit for them. It’s also deals like this that could have cost Lombardi his job. So while the value, to me, is the closest, this type of haul shouldn’t be expected. A late first and decent prospect isn’t out of the question though.
If they decide to plug the hole in the top 4 on the right side specifically, ala Taylor Hall, then it changes everything. Expect a top 4 player, 25-30 years of age that is known to everybody but not generally considered a great player, but a good one. A steady presence that will pay off for the Leafs by being exactly what they need, but otherwise it will look like a lopsided deal in favour of the team that lands our Big Chip, just like it did for the Devils.