VOORHEES, N.J. – James van Riemsdyk had figured he would be stepping onto the ice to practice on Saturday morning, he just didn’t think it would be at the Flyers Training Center.
The Flyers veteran forward had pretty much planned to be sent to a playoff contender sometime before Friday’s 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline.
But considering he’s been a professional hockey player for the better part of 14 years, JVR knew anything was possible.
So when the clock ticked 3 o’clock and his cell phone hadn’t gone off yet, van Riemsdyk knew he would remain a Flyer for the rest of the season.
That means he won’t be going to the postseason but at least he gets to complete his five-year contract on his own terms.
As for the surprise element, the New Jersey native has said all along he didn’t want to get ahead of himself as far as comments about his final destination and that he was taking it day by day.
“Yeah, definitely, based on what I was hearing a little bit surprised,” he said after the workout at FTC. “But ultimately you realize being around long enough that things are going to go the way they go.
“Different stuff you see over the course of a career. Sometimes more surprising than others. As I said the other day, nothing is ever certain until it’s done.”
Van Riemsdyk said he spent Friday (an off day) at home with his family, trying to not get too caught up in the “rollercoaster ride.”
The Flyers thought they were close to a deal which would have sent van Riesmsdyk to Detroit in exchange for a fourth-round pick. However, that swap was contingent on the Red Wings moving another player and when that didn’t happen, the potential JVR exchange fell through.
If there was any disappointment over a missed chance to compete for a Stanley Cup, van Riemsdyk tried not to show it.
“You play this game, you want a chance to win,” he said. “I love to play. No matter what those circumstances are – a lot of times they’re out of your control.
“I’ve loved playing here. Over the course of my career I think I’ve shown that by signing my only contracts to play here. I get to finish that out. And I’m excited to finish up the year with the guys.”
Van Riemsdyk chose not to comment specifically on the situation with Detroit.
As for the Flyers, they’re auditioning a lot of young players this season. Van Riemsdyk has been embracing a mentor’s role and he said he wants that to continue.
“That’s the way I’ve always kind of approached it,” he said. “I come in, I want to do things the right way; try to set a good example in that sense. That’s part of being a pro, being a veteran.”
Added coach John Tortorella: “He continued to do it right up to the deadline. It’s the most he’s talked on the bench – I’ve coached him in international tournaments. He’s part of the solution of us trying to find our way.”
Van Riemsdyk, 33, said he plans to continue his NHL career next season with any team which is interested in signing him to a free-agent contract.
>New Flyer excited to play
Brendan Lemieux, acquired in Friday’s Zack MacEwen trade, made the trek across country from Los Angeles to get on the ice for Saturday’s practice.
That certainly gives the impression he’s excited to be here.
Injuries have limited him to just 27 games this season and only 50 last year. This could be a chance for a new start.
“After a year like I had in L.A., another injury, the same as last year, then just coming back I never had much of an opportunity to play,” Lemieux said. “I knew Philly was a place that appreciates players the way I do.
“I knew there was potential for it (a trade to the Flyers) but I didn’t know if it would happen. I’m thankful for an opportunity to play hockey. I just wasn’t getting that opportunity in L.A.”
Lemieux, 26, plays a physical style as his 463 penalty minutes in 257 games will attest. He’s the son of former NHL star player Claude Lemieux, the gentleman who put the Flyers out of their misery with a long shot which eluded goaltender Ron Hextall in the 1995 Flyers-New Jersey series.
It’s clear Brendan does not just want to play out the string in these final 20 games.
“Hopefully, put myself in a position to where they want to bring me back,” he said. “That’s what I want to do.”
Tortorella said he’s had some conversations with Lemieux and believes he will fit in with this group.
“He has some feistiness to him which I like,” Tortorella said. “I watched him today, I see he could skate. I think he’ll add to our forecheck. He gets on a flight, practiced hard today and I think he’s feeling it.”
>GM unfairly criticized?
Tortorella said in his opinion general manager Chuck Fletcher has been unfairly criticized for the public perception of failure in his attempt to move van Riemsdyk at the deadline.
“Do you not think he tried to move him?” the coach said. “Are you kidding me? He tried like hell to move him. There are so many different scenarios that went on.
“I just don’t get the criticism of James still being here. There’s seven million dollars, we have to eat some of the money . . . Chuck tried but everybody wants to pile on.”