Aka: The Time Riley Was Totally Wrong About a Leafs Trade
Toronto Maple Leafs get:
James Van Riemsdyk, 23, LW:
- 47G, 52A for 99P in 196 games, +13
- 14:03 ATOI.
- That’s an 82 game average of 20G, 22A for 42P.
- Cap Hit: $4.25 million through 2018
- Salary: $2.5 million per year in ’13 to $5 mil per year in ’18
Philadelphia Flyers get:
Luke Schenn, 22, D:
- 14G, 61A for 75P in 310 games, -23
- 19:10 ATOI.
- That’s an 82 game average of 4G, 16G for 23P.
- Cap Hit: $3.6 million through 2016
- Salary: $3.35 mil per year
Though drafted in separate years, Schenn and Van Riemsdyk were actually born in the same year. So we are talking about the exchange of very similar players, in an age and career-progression sense.
Of course, that isn’t exactly true because, as we know, D take way longer to develop – normally – than forwards. Van Riesmdyk is a former centre who was moved to the wing because he couldn’t play centre in the NHL. Schenn was brought up at an extraordinarily young age for a D – though this is becoming more and more common as the sports world loses patience with development – and managed to acquit himself very well, at least until last season.
So the question about this trade is which is more valuable:
- the forward with skill and size whose contract will double over the course of his career in the expectation that he will definitely be a top 6 forward by the end
- or the defensive D who is overpaid for his maturity level but who has shown the ability to play above his contract at times and who is still very young for a D?
I can’t know the answer to that but I can guess.
And my guess, based on watching Schenn play and rarely ever seeing JVR play is that, in 2016, Schenn will be the better player. [Riley From the Future: oof] But if Schenn is indeed the better player in 2016 and has yet to re-sign, he will likely command far more than $4.25 mil, given the insanity of the free agency market. So from a cap perspective, and especially given the Leafs over-expenditure on D, it makes sense.
But the Leafs already helped themselves by moving Gustavsson and so were already sitting much prettier cap-wise before this deal. In fact, maybe they moved the Monster to make the deal and still have the ability to sign someone else.
Is JVR what the team needs? I certainly don’t think so. The Leafs clearly need a goalie and a #1 centre, at the very least.
Now they have yet another winger who used to be a centre (Kessel, Lupul, MacArthur). JVR is likely an upgrade over Kulemin. (And I think Kulemin is walking as a result, unless last year was a fluke. But why trade a guy who the Leafs were so high on – who is still only 22 years of age – in order to upgrade the second line yet again?) The problem is on the first line. With this and the Grabo signing, the Leafs second line is getting more expensive by the day.
I certainly don’t hate this trade as JVR is young and could potentially be a good and possibly even cheap player – if he starts scoring more than 40 points per season, that is. But Schenn is still very young and still needs to learn a lot. I believe he has the ability to be a solid #2 in his mid- or late-20s and so I can’t help but feel we are giving up a less expensive future #2 D for a more expensive top 6 forward, which does not make any sense to me.
2017: Why Was I So Wrong?
I think there’s a really simple reason why I was so wrong about this trade: The game has changed.
Had this trade been made in 1992 – or even 2002 – I think the player with Schenn’s skill set likely would have been the better gamble than the player with JVR’s skill set, given their ages and relative cap hits.
But the game has changed and it had already changed when I made this idiotic assessment. Schenn was already too slow to play in the 21st century NHL, which is why he was not playing enough for the Leafs. Had I actually been watching the games, I might have noticed.