Just a year out of college, James van Riemsdyk was still a bit of a wide-eyed kid when the Flyers somehow reached the Stanley Cup Final in June, 2010.
Taken second overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, the kid they called JVR left the University of New Hampshire after his second year of hockey there and arrived in Philadelphia to a low chorus of groaning about how the Flyers missed out on No. 1 pick Patrick Kane.
But the complaining stopped when van Riemsdyk and another youngster by the name of Claude Giroux helped the Flyers win a shootout on the last day of the regular season to get into the playoffs, then a one-for-the-ages miracle comeback from an 0-3 deficit against Boston to reach the championship series against Chicago.
The Flyers lost to the Blackhawks in six games but van Riemsdyk, a rookie, was hardly discouraged. He had his whole future in front of him.
And even though six of the next dozen years would be spent with the Toronto Maple Leafs, van Riemsdyk still looks back at the totality of his time with the Flyers as a great experience.
Now, with the NHL trade deadline less than three weeks away, the 33-year-old Middletown, N.J. native realizes he most likely will be leaving the Flyers for a second time. The five-year, $35-million contract he signed on July 1, 2018 is about to end and he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
It’s as good a time as any to reflect on his career with the Flyers.
That 2010 run most likely stands out above all the other defining moments.
“That was an incredible run,” he said the other day at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, N.J. “You almost get a little spoiled if that happens in your first year. All these years later, that’s the farthest run I’ve had as far as playoff success.
“You even look back at that more fondly in that regard now. You realize how hard it is to win. I think you gain a level of appreciation of things the longer you’re around when you see how hard it is to do.”
Trade rumors have van Riemsdyk possibly going to a number of teams, among them Dallas, the New York Rangers, Colorado and the Winnipeg Jets.
However, the most intriguing name on the list might be the Washington Capitals, which have a certain defenseman by the name of Trevor van Riemsdyk on its roster.
“I try not to get too wrapped up in it,” JVR said. “You don’t want to take anything away (from the current season with the Flyers). . .ultimately there’s a job to be done and we’re trying to claw our way back into the playoffs.
“Realistically I’m not naïve. I’ve been around. When you’re in the last year of your deal and you’re kind of in the situation we’re in as a team right now, things can happen. I try not to get too far ahead of myself as far as worrying about things that are out of my control. Hopefully we can string together a few wins, get ourselves back in the mix and go from there.”
This isn’t the first time JVR has had to address the exit issue. A couple years back, there was a lot of speculation the Seattle Kraken might take him in the expansion draft. Plus, the Flyers haven’t been to the playoffs for the past two seasons, so that always gets the hot stove a little hotter.
Van Riemsdyk was asked if he’s had any talks with general manager Chuck Fletcher along the lines of what Giroux negotiated when he was able to assemble a list of preferential destinations before last year’s trade to Florida.
“In years past there have been certain scenarios where those discussions might be had,” van Riemsdyk said. “We haven’t had anything like that yet (this season). Ultimately everyone understands it’s a business.
“Maybe as things get closer, there might be some more thought that goes into it. I don’t have any no-trade stuff, so I’m just focusing on one day at a time.”
Van Riemsdyk has evolved into a veteran mentor, recently helping out young linemates Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett. Back in the day, veterans helps JVR and now this is a chance to pay it forward.
“I try to really lead by example,” he said. “Just doing the right things everyday, making sure you take every practice seriously. Taking care of your body seriously.
“I think one thing I’ve tried to do this year is be more vocal. I think that can go a long way, especially the younger guys. If you can reinforce some of the things you see out there from experience. The better you can communicate with your teammates, I think it helps you develop chemistry better.”
There’s a good chance van Riemsdyk will be sent to a contender as a “rental” before signing with another team the way Giroux did with the Ottawa Senators.
How much longer does van Riemsdyk want to play?
“The time that you’ve had to play in this league, it’s a privilege,’’ he said. “It’s the best league in the world for a reason. I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m 33 but I still think I can come back each season and get better. That’s where it’s a lot of fun.”