What should the Leafs do with James van Riemsdyk?

Photo by: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

As NHL All-Star break approaches, the Toronto Maple Leafs may have a dilemma that needs to be addressed. The team is currently in the middle of a playoff race, playing some inspired hockey for the past two months, and are an impact defenseman away from becoming a serious threat in the Eastern Conference.

Because of this, there have been a number trade rumours involving Leafs forward, James van Riemsdyk (JVR), since start of the 2016-17 season. At just 27-years of age, he is in the middle of his prime and has done fairly well offensively for most of his career.

There has been some interest in the 6-foot-3-inch winger and JVR definitely has enough value to help land the team a defender should he be involved in a trade. There are, however, a few legitimate reasons why the Leafs would be wise to keep JVR for the foreseeable future.

Case for trading him

Photo by: John E. Sokolowski / USA TODAY Sports
JVR's value is currently at an all-time high and now is the time for the Leafs to capitalize and make a trade involving him.

Heading into Monday night's game against the Calgary Flames, he is tied for first in team scoring with 38 points along with 16 goals and 22 assists. At his current pace, JVR will finish the season with 30 goals, 41 assists, and 71 points, which will be career highs for the eight-year veteran.

This kind of production is what many playoff contenders are always looking for to help their team improve their chances of making a deeper run in the spring.  With the Leafs looking to bolster their back end with a solid, young defenseman, having JVR available with a salary cap of just $4.25 million could have a number of teams make serious consideration to giving the Leafs an offer.

With players such as Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler potentially available on the trade market, the Leafs should really consider giving up JVR in a trade while his value remains high. Capitalizing on his high production could land the Leafs some good assets that will help the team in 2017 and beyond.

Case for keeping him

While JVR's value is currently at an all-time high, perhaps it is a bit too high as the Leafs would probably prefer to keep him on the roster for the remainder of the season. 

A big reason to keep him is that JVR is on one of the best offensive lines in the NHL. Skating almost every game this year with Tyler Bozak and Mitch Marner, the three have combined to score 38 goals, 67 assists, and 105 points as of January 22. While the line has had trouble in their own end, their offensive production and chemistry have definitely played a role in the team's success. 

In addition, while JVR does have a fairly reasonable salary cap, he won't be a rental. After this season, there is one-year remaining on his deal before he can become a UFA, so the team acquiring him could easily lose him to free agency and get nothing in return by next summer. When you consider the Leafs will add $11 million in salary as the contracts of three non-roster players will expire, it makes sense for the Leafs to try to resign JVR during the offseason.

The Leafs are currently in a playoff race and if they are serious about reaching the postseason, they should ice the best roster each and every night the rest of the way. Getting rid of JVR would seriously hurt the team's chances based on his offensive production, so it is best to have him in the fold.

The verdict

All things considered, it makes so much sense for the Leafs to avoid trading JVR this season. Although the team is in obvious need of improvements defensively, which he could help bring in a potential deal, JVR has also become a valuable asset for the team on offense. While there are some good options currently available as the trade deadline approaches, the Leafs shouldn't use JVR in a deal as there are some good defenders potentially available in free agecny in the offseason.

With the team trying to make the playoffs for just the second time since 2004, keeping JVR on the Leafs could be the difference between hockey in the spring or an early offseason for Toronto.

All stats for this article are from Hockey-Reference.com.
You can follow Michael Mazzei on Twitter @MichaelMazzei3.


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