Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Marc Siciliano on 08/31/11 at 04:11 PM ET
It’s been about 24 hours since James van Riemsdyk signed his monster six-year, $25.5 million deal for the Philadelphia Flyers. After just 11 pressure packed playoff games in which he led the offense, he’s been given an extension that will make him the forward with the longest contract, forgoing four years of RFA eligibility in the process.
Let’s break it down before he gets traded.
Two different stars, one thing in common - they’re nothing without their cups
One of the biggest concerns I’ve been hearing is that the long-term risk is unnecessary. It surrenders the RFA period in which the team is ultimately in control (I’m looking at you, LA Kings and Drew Doughty), while simultaneously increasing the cap hit – at least initially – for a guy that hasn’t really proven he’s worthy of such a cap hit in the first place. Why pay him now and for so long, when you can play him a bit more now and a bit more later?
The logic is rests in the perceived potential of the player, and in the curious case of James van Riemsdyk, the potential is quite high.
Could you have really gotten him for much cheaper on a shorter-term contract? It’s plausible, but surely at the cost of length. Then you’re stuck with the possibility of having to shell out more cash later on. I’ve seen theoretical breakdowns of how the same amount of money could have been broken down, but I prefer the thought of a reasonable cap hit throughout rather than a bloated cap hit in the latter portion.
Yes, he’s making more than the team’s leading scorer, Claude Giroux; but times have changed. The salary patterns vary from year to year while rising with the cap. Guys like Ville Leino are making $4.5 million on six-year deals. Why isn’t anyone raising their voices about Scott Hartnell, who is making $4.2 million? I’m not necessarily saying that’s a good thing, just pointing out that certain situations dictate salaries, and this is no different. The players understand this is a business, and they can only control the portion that takes place on the ice.
JVR alluded to as much, saying this on his conference call about the added responsibility the contract can bring:
I don’t really think contracts come into play when it comes to taking more responsibility. [Contract or not], I was ready for that opportunity and challenge coming into this season, so now it’s just up to me to go out there and play and do the things I like to do out there.”
-James van Riemsdyk
Besides, with the way Giroux has developed, surely he’s in for a big raise when his deal expires. Even though he will still be a restricted free agent, that hasn’t stopped players of his caliber from being approached with an offer sheet or getting paid in the past. The talented Hearst, Ontario Native will be no different.
This contract (and the future one likely coming to Giroux) will cement them as the offensive foundations of the organization. In JVR’s case, he still has much to achieve in his career. Though his contract is valuable, it doesn’t really allow time for complacency to set in. He still has much to play for while the next six years unfold, as well as a contract afterwards.
The closest contractual equivalent I could find was Stephen Weiss of the Florida Panthers. He signed a six-year contract with a cap hit of $3.1 million in 2007. At the time he signed it, the cap limit was $50.3 million. To this day, that contract has fared well for both sides. Prior to him signing it, his highest point total in the regular season had been 48 points. With two 60-point campaigns under his belt since, a few more would give him a nice raise once his deal expires.
Had the cap been then what it was now, his deal would have an equivalent cap hit of $3.95 million (give or take). Remember, this is the lackluster Florida Panthers, not the high-spending Philadelphia Flyers we’re talking about. I’d argue that JVR’s potential to be a game breaker far outweighs the $300K lost when comparing his deal to a modern day equivalent of Stephen Weiss’s.
I like where JVR’s head is at right now. He’s been hard at work all off-season, training to take that next step in his career. He gets the opportunity to play alongside a guy he watched dominate the game as a Ranger in Jaromir Jagr. He joins an alien core loaded with old talent, young swagger, and chipped-shoulders. But most importantly, he has a full off-season of confidence in which to build off of after a dominating post-season performance last year. At a level where mindset is key, what’s more assuring of your talents then asserting your presence at the most important time of the year?
Watch JVR push this truck. Does this look complacent to you?
He knows that signing this deal gives the Flyers some wiggle room to bring in other guys around him.
“That’s something I’ve always been all about. I went through that, talking about that with my agent. Obviously you want to make a good living doing what you love to do but at the same time you want to be in a great place like Philadelphia, that wants you to be here, and not only that but be a part of a great team. Obviously with the salary cap, there are some constraints on what teams can do. I think it’s a very fair deal for both sides and I’m happy to be committed here for the next six years.”
-James van Riemsdyk
Sometime soon, the Flyers can sprinkle in Couturier and Schenn as necessary, giving them some secondary offensive firepower at a reasonable price. For now, he has the likes of Jagr and Briere to keep him company, as well as fellow young bucks Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds, amongst others.
When it comes down to it, JVR is a partially-college educated, but all-around smart kid. It’s obvious that this is a good situation for both him and his closely located family long-term. He now has the crucial experience of seeing what happens when the core guys don’t get it done. He has seen first hand what you need to do to fail in Philadelphia, and he has nothing but legends to look towards if he wants to learn how to succeed. He knows where he stands, but he knows there is much more to do. He’s a smart kid – and now he’s a rich one, too.
UPDATE: 3:25 PM EST: Flyers Rookie Game Tickets now available (for free) online here. That game takes place September 15th at the Wells Fargo Center vs the Washington Capitals rookies.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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