If this offseason served as any indication, Chuck Fletcher isn’t afraid to trade aggressively to clear cap space. Trading for players like Cam Atkinson and Ryan Ellis reinforces a method to the offseason madness. Fletcher improved the roster while departing from Philippe Myers, Nolan Patrick, and Jakub Voracek. He opened even more cap space, though he sacrificed quality draft capital, by ultimately straying from Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg in exchange for Rasmus Ristolainen.
Due to the flat cap, Fletcher’s “crazy-like-a-fox” offseason behavior should continue. My intuition leads me to believe James van Riemsdyk is at the top of his list of potential trade bait.
A season ago, the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t have much to write home about. Along with Joel Farabee, Scott Laughton, and Ivan Provorov, van Riemsdyk was among a handful of positives from a lost season. He was an elite scorer on the powerplay amongst all participants from across the NHL.
At $7mil a season through 2022-2023, other franchises who need a streaky scorer should be invited to shop. By the end of 2021-2022, van Riemsdyk could assist as a valuable rental in 2022-2023. The Flyers could flip a talented player like van Riemsdyk for another winger or defenseman occupying the right half of the ice. Coming off last season, van Riemsdyk should command a worthwhile return for Philadelphia. It’s a matter of when Fletcher will pull the trigger.
Until then, here are a handful of targets that make up my shortlist:
Andre Burakovsky; Colorado Avalanche; LW/RW
Previously, Burakovsky was an effective role player for the Washington Capitals during their Stanley Cup championship performance in 2017-2018. After driving the final two nails in the coffin against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Burakovsky moved to the Avalanche per a sign-and-trade following 2018-2019.
Last season, he had comparable numbers to James van Riemsdyk. Burakovsky scored more goals, but van Riemsdyk was more physical and demonstrated superior puck control. The Philadelphia Flyers would sacrifice powerplay scoring, but there’s more from where that came.
Burakovsky is young enough to play bottom-six minutes before moving into the top. At 26-years-old, a trade from the Flyers featuring van Riemsdyk (retaining 16% of his salary) could come with a first-round pick. Colorado doesn’t have a first-round selection in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, but Philadelphia could supplement one. It’ll sting to part ways with that kind of powerplay prowess, but at least the Flyers would have $1.35mil in cap space. Burakovsky would also command a raise at his production rate, becoming the most expensive target on this shortlist.
Kevin Fiala; Minnesota Wild; LW/RW
In a similar tone to Andre Burakovsky, Fiala compares the same to James van Riemsdyk. Fiala scored a few more goals last season, but van Riemsdyk produced more overall offense while maintaining a physical edge.
Over the last three seasons, Fiala has improved his puck control, but van Riemsdyk remains superior in that aspect too.
Chuck Fletcher may find a trade partner in his former franchise. Overall, the Wild would receive a better player, but the Philadelphia Flyers are not on the short end of the stick. Fiala is more than capable at the NHL level at 25-years-old, trending to replicate van Riemsdyk’s productivity.
A trade would begin with van Riemsdyk and a 2022 or 2023 first-round pick. Additionally, a prospect could fit in the package for Fiala. Perhaps Gerald Mayhew returns swiftly to Minnesota, or Max Willman fits the description. The Wild could double-dip in the first round, receive an elite powerplay scorer, and take on a prospect comparable in age to Fiala. Minnesota would still have $10.32mil in cap space available while the Flyers grow to $2.27mil.
Filip Forsberg; Nashville Predators; LW
Forsberg may be my favorite deal of the bunch. Of these targets, he presents a complete two-way game. Alain Vigneault was vocal about an efficient two-hundred-foot game in benching Travis Konecny in 2020-2021. One has to think that philosophy remains within the bench boss.
Last season was a down one for Forsberg. He ought to be available at a bargain in comparison to Andre Burakovsky and Kevin Fiala.
Usually, Forsberg scores at least twenty goals per season. James van Riemsdyk only eclipsed twenty goals twice in combined stints with the Philadelphia Flyers. Chuck Fletcher should swipe this low-risk, high reward target.
Package van Riemsdyk with the 2024 second-round pick. Taking on the $6mil from Forsberg doesn’t alleviate an insane amount of cap space for the Flyers. Adding the 2024 second-round selection allows the Predators to double-dip. No salary retention is required. Nashville would have $10.28mil of cap space available, whereas Philadelphia grows to $1.37mil.
Rickard Rakell; Anaheim Ducks; RW/LW
Rakell has been a Duck for life. Chuck Fletcher may attempt to pry him from the raft.
Trading for Rakell optimizes cap space for the Philadelphia Flyers. Suddenly, the Flyers have ~$3.57mil available. Anaheim still has ~$9.9mil free.
In Philadelphia, Rakell would fit as a bottom-six winger. Meshing with Morgan Frost and Scott Laughton could make for a tenacious third line. The Ducks ought to love the trade for van Riemsdyk. Not only can they afford him, but he would likely start on the top line at left wing.
Anaheim would receive a sweetener, such as a 2021 third-round pick with van Riemsdyk, but that’s compensating for his inflated contract.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre