Back in 2018, then-Flyers general manager Ron Hextall made a not insignificant splash in free agency by bringing James van Riemsdyk back to Philadelphia. JVR spent the first three years of his career with the Flyers, but most of his production as an NHLer came north of the border as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Naturally, Flyers fans hoped JVR would return to Philly with some more 30-goal campaigns up his sleeve.
Unfortunately, JVR has yet to match his consistent 50-plus-point production as a Leaf, and the five-year, $35 million contract he signed back in 2018 has caused more headaches for the Flyers than much else.
This isn’t to say that JVR isn’t a useful player, though. He is. He’s still capable of scoring goals and contributing as a netfront presence on the power play. But at his average annual value, there’s certainly much to be desired.
The 2021-22 season, for all intents and purposes, was JVR’s least productive since his first stint with the Flyers over a decade ago. As one of the few Flyers players to appear in all 82 games last season, the 33-year-old managed just 38 points — his smallest point total since his injury-ravaged 2015-16 campaign. But while he struggled to consistently log points, he still finished the season with the team lead in goals with 24.
That’s more a testament to how disastrous the Flyers’ season was than JVR’s actual value at this stage of his career.
At the end of the season, while he did manage to find the back of the net more than any other Flyer, JVR also struggled to create much of a positive play-driving impact (though it’s also hard to identify any Flyers players who didn’t struggle to drive play last season). Of all Flyers forwards, he was on the ice for the second-most goals against at 5-on-5, behind only Travis Konecny. And for the plus-minus crowd, only defenseman Keith Yandle had a lower rating than JVR to finish the season.
On one hand, JVR is still more than capable of finding twine. But he’s also far from the player he was as a member of the Maple Leafs. And at his $7 million cap hit, it’s easy to understand why he has drawn the ire of Flyers fans as of late. That likely won’t change this coming season, either — especially after JVR’s contract was too difficult to move during the free agent signing period, which handcuffed the Flyers to making smaller, less inspiring moves than attempting to make a splash for a big-ticket UFA.
At this stage of his career, JVR is likely best suited to slot in as a third-line winger on most teams. But given the Flyers’ injury woes and consequential lack of depth at left wing, there’s a very good chance he will start the season skating on the top line. Of course, whether he stays there after Joel Farabee returns from his offseason neck surgery is totally different discussion.
It’s very possible this season will be JVR’s last as a member of the Flyers. Selected by the club second overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, JVR’s gone on to post 134 goals and 268 points as a member of the Orange and Black. If the stars align, perhaps JVR will have one more 30-goal campaign left in him before becoming a UFA. But when that day does come, there likely won’t be too many fans pleading for the Flyers to offer him an extension — at least not at his current cap hit.