Paying for potential: The arguments for and against James van Riemsdyk's contract extension

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 30: James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers arrives for his game against the Boston Bruins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Wells Fargo Center on April 30, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let's all agree on one thing: To date, James van Riemsdyk has not done anything to warrant earning $4.25 million per year. He's slowly grown as a player since making his full-time debut with the Philadelphia Flyers at the start of the 2009-10 season, and the 11 games he put together in the 2011 postseason made us all extremely excited for what the young power forward has in his future.

He's shown that the hype -- you know, the whole No. 2 overall pick thing -- is true and he can be a star in this league. We all want that to happen, and sooner rather than later would be nice given the fact that half the team was traded this offseason. But as of right now, he's not a $4.25 million a year player.

I'm not sure anybody even disagrees with that. What kind of 40 point player (deservedly) gets that kind of money? The list isn't a long one, we can guarantee you that. No, this deal is all about potential. The hope is that in three or four years, van Riemsdyk will be so above and beyond that dollar amount that the deal will be viewed as a steal. 

This could certainly be true. We all hope to God it happens, and quite honestly, I'm one that thinks it will happen. But there are definitely questions about what exactly JvR will become over the next six years. Will he be the monster we all saw in the playoffs last year, will he be the underwhelming player that many wanted traded just as recently as the middle of last season, or will he fall somewhere in between?

Because of these questions, we can't yet judge the contract that was handed to Young James yesterday. It's a contract that's based solely on his potential, not one that's based on what he's done during his NHL career thus far. What he does in the next six years will be the judge of whether or not the deal is a victory or a failure for the team.

What we can agree or disagree on now, though, is the philosophy behind giving an unproven player the kind of money that the Flyers did yesterday.

Another thing we can agree on: Giving $4.25 million per year to a 22 year old that's played two years in the NHL is a risk. That's the crux of the argument both for and against the deal for JvR. If you like the deal, it's a risk that's worth taking -- and it could pay off handsomely in the end. (Or, it could turn in to an albatross...)

If you dislike the deal, however, you feel that it's an unnecessary risk. He's a restricted free agent right now, and thus under Flyers control for the foreseeable future. As an RFA, the Flyers would hold every possible bit of leverage over van Riemsdyk, and they'd certainly have a clearer picture of his abilities after his third NHL season then after his second NHL season. 

Of course, there's some risk in that as well. Those in favor of the contract signed on Monday say that if JvR has a great year this year, the cost is only going to go up. Fair point. But again, the Flyers have the leverage, and Reemer would have to have an unreal season to earn more than $4.25 million per year in RFA negotiations next year. 

There are certainly positives and negatives to signing this deal, and I don't think anybody who dislikes the deal is planted firmly in the "I f*cking hate this thing" category. Regardless of where you stand on the subject, there's risk involved. It's just a matter of which risk you'd rather take. 

Where do you stand?

For more on the subject, check Geoff's story over at SB Nation Philly

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