Anaheim Ducks Slow Start: Need Top-Line LW

Anaheim Ducks Slow Start Should be Concerning

Anaheim Ducks slow start can largely be attributed to their lack of scoring, which has yielded just 1 goal for in nine periods of play. The Ducks have struggled to maintain any extended periods of time on the offensive zone attack throughout their first three games. Instead, have found themselves playing large chunks of each game in their own end.

To be fair, Anaheim is loaded on the back-end with offensively gifted defenseman, but unfortunately doesn’t do a lot of good when your offense is struggling to maintain control or possession long enough to make something happen with the puck. But let’s call a spade, a spade. Hockey fans all knew that if Nick Ritchie was unable to crack this roster out of training camp, that the Ducks would have struggles up the left wing, especially on the top-line.  So the Anaheim Ducks slow start shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Game three featured Jiri Sekac on the top-line to begin the game alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. While Jiri Sekac, Jakob Silfverberg, Carl Hagelin, and Patrick Maroon are all serviceable NHLers, none have the skill to thrive long-term in a top-line role. The Ducks have themselves a decent looking roster that could make some noise in the post-season, IF, they can find a way to add another top-six forward to play on that top-line without sacrificing too much from the current roster. Preferably, prospects and draft picks are most ideal.

So we know that the Ducks slow start has yielded a need for a top-line left winger, and we know they’d prefer to give up prospects or picks. Chances are, to get what you’re looking for means taking back a player with a decent sized salary. You’re not going to target teams willing to eat salary on a player, because that type of player isn’t going to help you win. The Ducks would likely have to shed some roster salary.

Matching up the criteria, there’s only one name that stands out among all others.

Ducks Would be Wise to Pursue Toronto Maple Leafs James van Riemsdyk

Oct 3, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward James van Riemsdyk (21) screens Detroit Red Wings goaltender Petr Mrazek (34) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Anaheim Ducks Cap Space: $7,982,502
Toronto Maple Leafs Cap Space: $916,964

Usually teams will Stanley Cup aspirations are pressed right up against the cap, not sitting with close to $8 million in cap space at the beginning of the season. It does make you wonder how the Maple Leafs are struggling so mightily (even though they’ve shown signs of improvement) but can still spend so much.

LW James van Riemsdyk, Toronto

Currently van Riemsdyk carries a $4.25 million dollar cap hit through 2017-18, and has a no-trade clause that kicks in at the start of the 2016-17 season. Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas, and Lou Lamiorello likely knew they had a one season window to evaluate James van Riemsdyk and potentially move him. Once the no-trade clause kicks in, and the player gets more control over his destiny, options for trading begin to limit themselves.

Philadelphia Flyers drafted van Riemsdyk second overall in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. He was a highly-touted American-born player who fell victim to an extremely deep crop of forwards in Philly, where in-turn the Flyers were unable to give James the necessary ice-time. With desperate needs on defense, the Flyers flipped JVR to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn. In 39 playoff games with the Flyers, JVR produced 15 points, while in 196 regular season games, he tallied 99 points mostly playing bottom-six minutes.

James van Riemsdyk made a playoff appearance his first year with the Maple Leafs, putting up seven points in the seven-game series that saw Boston Bruins claw back in an epic win. During JVR’s three seasons with the Maple Leafs so far, he’s accumulated 149 points in 210 games played exclusively seeing top-six minutes, most of that time spent on the first line.

This 6’3 200 lb product of Middletown, New Jersey is a highly-skilled forward who’s responsible with and without the puck. He’s a terrific skater, creative with the puck, and owns a high hockey-IQ that results in few turnovers or bad-decisions when the puck’s on his stick. He uses his speed effectively in the forecheck to either use his body,stick-check, or block the passing-lanes and force the opposition to make unfavorable decisions. He also uses that speed to be an effective back-checking winger.

Could you imagine the Ducks being led by a top-line of van Riemsdyk – Getzlaf – Perry? That’d be a combined 641 lbs with three players above six foot tall. Not quite the combined weight that was featured by Mikael Renberg, John Leclair, and Eric Lindros with their “legion of doom” line, but the Ducks could certainly make a case for the modern day legion of doom with a few big-skilled physical bodies.

The Asking Price for JVR from Toronto?

Oct 14, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (4) reacts against the Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This is the part that most Anaheim Ducks fans will not be overly pleased with, but sometimes teams have to sacrifice a piece of the future to help with the right now. What makes Toronto the perfect trade partner, other than history between these two clubs? When you’re trying to get better right now like the Ducks are, then you don’t to upset the chemistry by shipping out roster players. Ideally, you’d like to move prospects or picks so you can simply add a player like JVR in the mix without too much disruption.

The top target for the Maple Leafs would most likely be D Shea Theodore, who currently ranks second on the Ducks top 10 prospects list. Theodore wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities, but the Ducks would be very reluctant to move this young man. The Leafs might also inquire about LW Nick Ritchie, the Ducks top prospect considering the hole JVR would fill, but again could meet reluctancy on part of the Ducks.

Anaheim would more likely counter with prospects such as D Jacob Larsson, D Josh Manson (currently with the big club), D Brandon Montour, or RW Steffan Noesen. Unless the Ducks are including first-round draft picks, then the two teams may have to find some common ground and meet in the middle somewhere. It’s very likely that the Maple Leafs would stand firm on Shea Theodore in a potential JVR deal.

Feb 20, 2015; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson (42) skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames during the first period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Anaheim Ducks won 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

However, there is one far-fetched trade scenario that changes the landscape of players involved completely. The Ducks were already very thin on right-handed defenseman heading into the season. With nearly $8 million in cap space, the Ducks could swing a deal for James van Riemsdyk and Dion Phaneuf (right-handed shot). Anaheim would be taking on a little over $11 million in salary (unless Toronto absorbed some of Dion’s salary) meaning at least one roster contract would need to go the other way. There are few bodies Toronto would be interested on the Ducks roster with their on-going re-build, but one player might interest the Maple Leafs, that would help Anaheim to get under the cap, and that is Cam Fowler. Add prospects and/or picks to the deal, and you could easily work something out.

Could James van Riemsdyk be the answer for Anaheim’s offensive woes? What do you think the asking price and eventual deal would look like? Is there another NHL player that would be a fit on the top-line in Anaheim alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry? We proposed a far-fetched blockbuster type trade with JVR/Phaneuf that would help fill two needs for the Ducks. Is the proposal all that far-fetched , or perhaps a reasonable solution to fix a couple gaping holes?