James van Riemsdyk an even better fit with Flyers this time around

James van Riemsdyk an even better fit with Flyers this time around

Ron Hextall was swarmed by a pack of reporters Friday at Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, and had to clarify a statement he had previously made that the Flyers were “certainly not going to reach out on a seven-year deal on good player.”

“I misspoke that day or you guys misunderstood me,” Hextall said with a smile Friday. “I said we weren’t going to go long term with a good player. Maybe a great player, we’d look at.”

Little did we know, Hextall was big-game hunting and his trophy was a player we’re all familiar with.

The Flyers on Sunday righted a past wrong and provided a jolt to both the now and future by signing James van Riemsdyk to a five-year, $35 million contract with no no-trade clause.

We can praise Hextall for making a splash with van Riemsdyk. Some doubted he had it in him, that he was too conservative in his building. He sent a loud and clear message otherwise.

van Riemsdyk returns to the Flyers for a second stint and this time, he’s an even better fit.

Enough with the Hextall acclaim. Let’s break down what JVR brings and where he fits.

What JVR brings

Originally drafted by the Flyers with the No. 2 overall pick in 2007, van Riemsdyk returns to Philly a more polished player than he was when they traded him to Toronto on June 23, 2012.

van Riemsdyk brings size (6-3, 217), shooting and consistent scoring, all three areas the Flyers will certainly benefit from both in the immediate future and a few seasons down the line.

JVR, in six seasons with the Maple Leafs, blossomed into the 30-goal scorer many wanted him to be in Philadelphia. Last season, van Riemsdyk posted 36 goals and 54 points.

In four of the past five seasons, van Riemsdyk has scored at least 27 goals and 54 points. The 29-year-old averaged 31 goals per an 82-game schedule during his time with Toronto. He was limited to 29 points in 40 games in 2015-16 because of injury.

From a situational breakdown, van Riemsdyk has a pretty balanced split between even strength and power-play goals. Last season, he finished second on Toronto in even-strength goals (25) and PP markers (11). With the Leafs, he averaged 15 ES goals and seven PPGs. The consistency is there from a production standpoint.

Another aspect that van Riemsdyk brings — and perhaps the biggest — is a volume shooter, which the Flyers desperately need.

van Riemsdyk finished the 2017-18 season with 248 shots, which ranked 23rd in the NHL and has averaged 213 shots on goal in his six years in Toronto, but a closer look tells a better story.

By looking at van Riemsdyk’s rate metrics, we can see he fires the puck often. Last season, he had 10.1 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5. In fact, he’s always excelled in that category. Throughout his career, van Riemsdyk has averaged 9.63 shots per 60 minutes at 5-on-5.

Maybe van Riemsdyk would have developed into this player had the Flyers never soured on him after three seasons. Hindsight is 20/20 and we know the Flyers lost that trade, badly. Looking back, the Flyers misused van Riemsdyk at times and gave up on him too quickly. That was a common theme in the previous business model — not knowing what they had.

“For me, I got a big opportunity to expand my role in Toronto,” van Riemsdyk said. “It was just a different situation with the team when I got in there. Playing more of a prominent role on a power play, play more minutes. I’ve been able to expand my game in that way.”

How he fits

Signing van Riemsdyk adds genuine intrigue to the Flyers’ forward group as they now finally have legitimate NHL forward depth with seven proven top-six forwards.

van Riemsdyk slots in with Sean Couturier, Claude Giroux, Nolan Patrick, Travis Konecny, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds. Oskar Lindblom fits perfectly on the third line too. Hextall said Sunday the Flyers will fill their third-line center vacancy from within and opened the door for Giroux to potentially move back to center or for a prospect to graduate to the NHL.

Still, JVR gives the Flyers scoring depth. Depending on where head coach Dave Hakstol pencils players in, one of van Riemsdyk, Simmonds, Voracek or Konecny will be on the third line. Where the fit will get interesting will be on the power play. van Riemsdyk played a similar role with the Leafs that Simmonds plays for the Flyers. But the Flyers’ second PP unit has stunk.

Now the Flyers can spread the love and see how the chemistry shakes out.

“We can put out two really good units,” Hextall said. “It gives us another left shot, which we needed. We’ve got [Patrick], we’ve got Konecny. We’ve got the two young defensemen. … We feel pretty comfortable that our power play has taken a step here.”

Some may argue van Riemsdyk pushes Simmonds out of a prominent role with the Flyers, but that’s misguided. In today’s game, you need depth on all four lines. The Flyers finally have it.

We can disagree on the term or the price. But JVR fills an immediate need.

The Flyers have been largely quiet under the Hextall administration.

That changed Sunday and changed in a big way. Is it October yet?

More on the Flyers

• Quiet no more, Hextall makes a statement with JVR

• JVR move rights a past wrong, boosts present, brightens future

5 observations from Flyers development camp

Emotional Hextall, Flyers blown away by Humboldt survivor Straschnitzki

What's holding Frost back part of Flyers' teaching methods at development camp

Flyers weekly observations: A Joel Farabee story, Scott Gordon's job, more

Flyers weekly observations: A Joel Farabee story, Scott Gordon's job, more

The Flyers endured a rough week, going 1-3-0 to unofficially kick themselves out of the playoff chase.

From Jan. 14 to March 11, the Flyers were neck and neck with the Lightning as both teams went an identical 18-4-2 for a league-most 38 points. The Flyers even scored nine more goals than Tampa Bay during that stretch.

But it looks like they've run out of gas and the focus is shifting to 2019-20.

Let's get into that and more with our latest weekly observations:

• There should be excitement over Joel Farabee.

He just seems like a kid that fits this city.

The No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 draft signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers on Monday after a superb freshman season at Boston University (see story). That means he will turn pro in 2019-20, most likely with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley.

But Farabee has been a quick riser, so don't put a timeline on his climb to the Flyers.

The 19-year-old is a strategic goal-scoring winger, utilizing his smarts and skill to beat goalies in a variety of ways.

He's also a hard-worker.

A moment that stuck out from development camp last summer was when he asked for extra instruction following an afternoon session. After getting some tips, he shook the coach's hand and thanked him. It was Scott Gordon, now the Flyers' interim head coach.

"I've got to learn a lot to make it to the next level," Farabee said after that practice, "so I'm just trying to get as much information as I can to be a better player."

• Speaking of Gordon, he has gone 24-17-4 as interim head coach after being summoned from the Phantoms to take over for Dave Hakstol, who was fired following a 12-15-4 start.

On the day Hakstol was relieved of his duties, general manager Chuck Fletcher made it clear Gordon was a candidate for the head coaching gig next season.

Gordon has done a good job. His players have responded well to his messages, he's gotten the best out of the younger pieces and the team became relevant in the postseason race.

We'll have to wait and see what it earns him. A new GM typically likes to hire his own guy, but there's no doubt Gordon has impressed to firmly put his name in the discussion.

He'll have tough decisions over the final six games of the regular season. Does he play Samuel Morin and Cam Talbot for the sake of giving them some looks or does he continue to employ his best possible lineup to win games? The latter will only help his case for where he lands in 2019-20.

• Jakub Voracek, always refreshingly honest, was a tough critic when talking to reporters following Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Capitals:

I felt like in that push we had, we had a good push, but unfortunately every time we got close to three points, five points, and then we played those big teams in front of us, those four-point games, we choked.

I don't want to take anything out of this season, to be honest.

We have to have a good look in the mirror.

It felt like the Flyers needed a clean slate all season. They were able to somewhat reset with a new head coach, but they had already dug too deep of a hole.

Next season, they should have all sorts of motivation. Expectations certainly won't be lowering. After all, the Flyers haven't missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons since the 1992-93 and 1993-94 campaigns.

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Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

Flyers prospect Joel Farabee signs entry-level contract, will turn pro in 2019-20

It’s one and done for Joel Farabee at Boston U.

The Flyers' 2018 first-round selection signed his entry-level contract Monday after one season at Boston University. 

Farabee finished as the Terriers' leading scorer with 36 points in 37 games as Boston University’s season (16-18-4) came to an end Friday night in the semifinals of the Hockey East Tournament.

However, Farabee’s performance as a 19-year-old freshman was one of the team’s highlights after he finished the regular season on a tear with seven goals over his last nine games and was recently named Hockey East Rookie of the Year. After getting acclimated to the collegiate game, Farabee adapted very quickly.

Farabee isn’t the only highly-touted prospect to leave BU after just one season. Buffalo’s Jack Eichel left after scoring 71 points in 40 games before the Sabres grabbed him with the second overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft.

Unlike CHL prospects, who can sign entry-level deals and still compete at the major junior level, Farabee forfeits the remainder of his college eligibility, so the question moving forward is where will Farabee start the 2019-20 season?

He can make the Flyers out of training camp or start his first year of professional hockey at Lehigh Valley.

Farabee needs to develop physically but the hockey IQ and playmaking ability coupled with high character are all important attributes that he brings to the pro level.

Farabee was the Flyers' first draft pick to come from the U.S. national team development program (USNTDP) since James van Riemsdyk was selected second overall in 2007. 

JVR spent two years at the University of New Hampshire before electing to turn pro. The Flyers' left winger played just seven games with the Phantoms in 2008 before earning an NHL promotion.

There’s a debate as to whether Farabee or Morgan Frost, the Flyers' 2017 first-round pick, is the organization’s top prospect. Personally, I think Farabee has a more NHL-ready game right now, and he’ll get the chance to prove that when training camp commences in September.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Flyers