NHL trade deadline: James van Riemsdyk 'not naive' to his spot with Flyers

'Not naive' to trade deadline spot, van Riemsdyk staying in moment with Flyers originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

VOORHEES, N.J. — James van Riemsdyk is not ignorant to the plausibility of this month being his last as a Flyer.

The 33-year-old winger is a smart guy, on and off the ice. He knows the number of years on his contract and the number of games left on the Flyers' schedule before the March 3 NHL trade deadline.

"There's still, what, 10 games, I think, that we have remaining until the deadline," van Riemsdyk said Wednesday after practice.

Ten exactly. Spot on.

The experienced goal scorer will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and the Flyers are a team in transition rather than Stanley Cup contention. Those realities make van Riemsdyk a popular candidate to be moved, with the Flyers widely expected to have a focus on the future during the trading period.

For van Riemsdyk, in the final year of a five-year, $35 million contract with no trade protection, he's staying in day-to-day mode.

"Try not to get too wrapped up into it because ultimately you don't want to take anything away from ... there's a job to be done and we're trying to claw our way back into the playoffs," van Riemsdyk said. "But realistically, I'm not naive, I've been around, I've played for a few years now. You know when you're in the last year of your deal and you're kind of in the situation as we're at as a team right now, that things can happen."

With a positive run from the holiday break to the All-Star break, the Flyers have put themselves in position to keep things interesting during February. They're 21-22-9 and eight points out of the Eastern Conference's second wild-card spot. That might be nothing to write home about, but it's a far cry from last season, when the Flyers went 25-46-11 and were all but finished by February.

"That's what's so exciting for players at this time — it tests you," head coach John Tortorella said Wednesday. "If you don't want tests as an athlete, if you don't want the pressure of playing in meaningful games, what are we doing?

"It's a really good situation. It's up to us [for] how long do we keep playing those meaningful games, right? I hope we stay in it."

More: Tortorella reiterates process as Flyers see opportunity before trade deadline

Unless the Flyers rip off 10 straight wins, they are likely to have a seller's approach at the deadline. The Flyers wouldn't want to lose van Riemsdyk for nothing in the offseason when his contract expires. And he has qualities that contending teams would like. He is a pro in all aspects, is proficient around the net on the power play and owns 71 games of playoff experience.

He has scored 30 or more goals twice in his career. He netted 29 in 2016-17 and would have had over 30 during 2018-19 if it weren't for an injury that cost him 16 games. So van Riemsdyk has come close to sporting four 30-goal seasons on his résumé.

This season, he has 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) and a plus-2 rating through 32 games. He missed 20 games because of a broken left index finger.

"Try not to get too far ahead of myself as far as worrying about things that are out of my control," van Riemsdyk said of the deadline. "Hopefully we can string together a few wins, get ourselves back in the mix and then go from there. I'm trying to just take it day by day like usual, just do the best I can and try to help the team win games.

"I love what I do, it's fun to come to the rink every day and try to get better and try to help the team win games. We have a great group, so I'm focused on that for right now."

A pair of 23-year-old forwards saw valuable development playing alongside van Riemsdyk once he returned from his injury in December. From Dec. 11 to Jan. 26, a 22-game span, Morgan Frost recorded 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) and Owen Tippett had 15 (six goals, nine assists).

"It was fun playing with those guys," van Riemsdyk said. "They've got a lot of really good tools to work with. ... Had a productive stretch there. You see their comfort level and confidence grow as the year goes on — that's fun to see."

Amid the Flyers' three-game skid (0-1-2) at the end of that stretch, Tortorella split the trio up. Perhaps the Flyers want Frost and Tippett to be prepared for life after van Riemsdyk. It can't hurt to have those two start developing chemistry now with others. And it can't hurt to showcase van Riemsdyk on a line with Travis Konecny and Noah Cates.

"You guys are talking about James being traded. We don't talk about it. I just wanted to change the lines," Tortorella said. "All that stuff you guys are going to write about the next few weeks — who's going to go, who isn't — it doesn't fall into my ... I just don't think about that. I just felt I wanted to change some lines."

Van Riemsdyk said he hasn't had any conversations with general manager Chuck Fletcher about a possible trade.

That could change as the March 3 deadline gets closer. If the Flyers are to move van Riemsdyk, Fletcher could aim to acquire a second- or third-round pick with retaining some of van Riemsdyk's $7 million salary.

Since signing with the Flyers in the summer of 2018, van Riemsdyk has made the playoffs once. He probably envisioned more chances in the postseason when he decided on a reunion with the Flyers following six years in Toronto. But the Flyers have been through a front office shakeup and two head coaching changes during his five-year contract.

Van Riemsdyk was drafted by the Flyers in 2007 and went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2010 as a rookie.

"That was an incredible run," he said. "You almost get a little spoiled when that happens in your first year. Now all these years later, that's still the farthest run I've had as far as playoff success.

"You even look back on it more fondly in that regard now and realize how hard it is to win. I think you gain a level of appreciation for things the longer you're around when you see how hard some of these things are to do."

In his 14th NHL season, he's now married and a father of two young kids.

"That's another part to consider about all of this," van Riemsdyk said. "You want to make sure that their happiness is at the forefront.

"That's been one of the best parts about playing here is the family aspect of it. You see our kids down by the glass. That's fun for us. It's still crazy to me that I'm the guy now, that's my turn in my life, where my kids are down there and my daughter's in the corner. They're a big part of all of it."

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