The Toronto Maple Leafs have been reported considering trading one of their star players James Van Riemsdyk ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Van Riemsdyk has been an integral force in the Leafs offence for the past 6 seasons. The team is set to make their second playoff appearance in as many years and they seem to have the potential to make it far this year. They have a strong presence in net with Frederik Andersen having a Vezina caliber season, and their offence has been one of the best in the league as they currently lead the league in goals scored with 144. The only area that the Leafs really need to improve would be their defence. Although the Leafs defence far from the worst in the league, they still should strongly consider adding another top defenseman if they really do want to have a long playoff run this year. Their ticket to getting a top pairing defenseman is thought by many to be James Van Riemsdyk. The problem with this is that it probably would not be able to happen and rightfully so. Trading JVR might prove to be a very costly move for the team. Although he is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, losing him would put a dent in their league-leading offence. Van Riemsdyk has 25 goals and 13 assists (38 points) in 61 games this season. Losing a player who is on pace for over 30 goals is hard for any team but when you have a legitimate shot to make it far in the playoffs it would be a huge risk for the organization.
Although the Toronto Maple Leafs biggest weakness is defence, trading away they’re top forwards is not the solution. Van Riemsdyk is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and there is no telling for sure that he will resign with the team, but even if they decide to trade him now, there does not seem to be a lot of potential destinations that will prove to be beneficial to both teams. If you look at the market for teams interested in a top-six winger who is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, the teams who would be interested are the teams who are already in a playoff spot and looking to add more depth or a team looking to make one last playoff push. Considering that the potential asking price for James Van Riemsdyk would be a top pairing defenseman, why would a playoff team lose a top defenseman in order to get an extra top six winger. By making this trade a team would essentially be strengthening their offence while putting a hole in their defence. And even if the team has a strong blue line it would still be weakening an area of your team that was strong and could cause depth issues. If you look at the main teams interested in a top-six winger they are the Winnipeg Jets, St. Louis Blues, Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Boston Bruins, among other teams. All of these teams could use a player like Van Riemsdyk but the cost would be big and could prove to create a hole in a separate area such as defence or prospects. The best place to trade James Van Riemsdyk too would be a team that is in a rebuild or retooling mode or a team that is not in a playoff spot. The problem with doing this is that there would probably be no interest. Due to the fact that Van Riemsdyk is set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season a rebuilding team would not want to trade away their key assets in return for a player who might not sign long-term with the team and who cannot help them this season in any way.
The Leafs do need defence but trading away James Van Riemsdyk is not the way to do acquire it. A trade involving Van Riemsdyk is a risky trade for any team involved. The Leafs would be losing a top scoring forward in a very critical time as depth is always important and especially come playoff time it can be the difference maker in a teams playoff run. But perhaps the biggest issue with a trade for Van Riemsdyk is that it does not make sense for the teams that have what the Leafs are looking for like the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and The Arizona Coyotes, because they have no need for his services as they are rebuilding or retooling and have no need for an unrestricted free agent who could leave the team in free agency at the end of the season. Unless it was a package deal or a three-team deal that would give the Leafs a top defenseman and get a top-six forward, then the trade would seem to be a hard sell. To acquire a top pairing defenseman the Leafs could look in other directions such as trading picks as they are expected to be late picks as the Leafs are expected to make a push for the cup this year.