Those who were hoping for the Leafs to pull out another blockbuster by Monday will have to rule James van Riemsdyk off the list. While most didn’t realistically expect him to be on the block, reports have confirmed that the star left winger will likely be spending the remainder of the year on the Injured Reserve.
Rehab set back has #Leafs van Riemsdyk likely done for rest of season. 100% full recovery expected for the fall.
— Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) February 25, 2016
Realistically, van Riemsdyk was a long shot to make it back before the deadline anyway. The 26-year-old suffered his injury, a fractured foot, against the San Jose Sharks on January 9th and was given an optimistic recovery timeline of approximately six-to-eight weeks. Similar injuries historically fell on the latter end of that, even with a perfect rehab, so it’s no surprise that a setback would push him out for the year.
Obviously, this eliminates any interest from teams looking to acquire him with this year in mind, though it might not cut the entire league off. For example, Evander Kane was traded to the Buffalo Sabres last year and almost immediately shut down for the year to undergo shoulder surgery. That situation was different in the sense that Kane’s trade was one that required urgency rather than an option with “sell-high” in mind, but teams looking long term could still be interested.
If the Leafs do decide to keep him, though, the end of his season isn’t a bad thing. Van Riemsdyk has improved in just about every way under Mike Babcock, bringing his $4.25 million cap hit from great value to spectacular value as a play driving, point producing, net crashing winger. Losing him for the year would be bad in any other circumstance, but with the Leafs being neck-and-neck with the Oilers for last place and with roster players continuing to be shipped out for future assets, the focus should be on experimenting with younger players in the last few painful weeks of the year.
Besides, wouldn’t it be nice if the next time you see James van Riemsdyk, he’s being centred by William Nylander, Auston Matthews, or Steven Stamkos? We’ll find out if any of those scenarios play out September.