Pittsburgh –The Maple Leafs have landed winger James vanRiemsdyk in a trade for defenceman Luke Schenn.
News of the trade leaked out hours after the end of what seemed an uneventful entry draft.
The long-anticipated deal sends the 22-year-old Schenn to play with his brother Brayden in Philadelphia. The Flyers needed a defenceman because of the long-term injury of their captain Chris Pronger.
The 23-year-old van Riemsdyk, the second choice in the 2007 draft has been beset by injuries. This year he played just 43 games because of an injured hip, a broken bone in his foot, a concussion and a strained oblique muscle.
In 196 regular season games with the Flyers, van Riemsdyk scored 47 goals and assisted on 52 more. The New Jersey native flashed his immense promise in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs when he scored seven goals in 11 games.
The Leafs drafted Schenn fifth overall in 2008. He showed flashes of excellence but never really found his stride as the Leafs were constantly undone by spotty goaltending and poor penalty killing.
Schenn was a career minus 23 with the Maple Leafs and was scratched three times this season including once by current coach Randy Carlyle. Schenn led the NHL in hits with 270.
While he has never accrued more than 35 penalty minutes in a season, van Riemsdyk is the kind of big-bodied forward the Maple Leafs have long coveted. He would likely slot into the second line beside centre Mikhail Grabovski but figures to see extensive time on the power play.
Now that he has traded Jonas Gustavsson to the Winnipeg Jets, Leafs GM Brian Burke insists he is comfortable with James Reimer grabbing the number one goaltending job.
There is a condition attached: if the price for a goalie drops Burke will be willing to bring in a veteran. The Vancouver Canucks are shopping 33-year-old netminder Roberto Luongo. Boston goalie Tm Thomas says he will take a leave of absence this season and has waived his no-trade clause so his stated intention of taking a year off seems suspect.
Speaking earlier Saturday, Burke says he has drifted away from his earlier assertions that the Leafs needed veteran help, partially because of what he has, partially because of what he is being asked to give.
“I’m not happy with what’s being asked and from my perspective, rather than strip the organization for one positional need we will go with what we have,” Burke said.
“We are encouraged by the medical reports on James Reimer. He has a complete bill of health. He’s working out like a madman. He’s made it very clear that he has no intention of giving up the net and that’s changed our thinking a little bit. This is a guy who’s going to come back hard after a year that was marred by injury.”
After a 4-0-1 start, Reimer was hit in head by Brian Gionta as the Montreal winger burst through the crease. The club later called it a neck injury that produced concussion-like symptoms. The 24-year-old finished 14-14-0-4 with a poor save percentage of .900 and a 3.10 goals against average. He was shut down in late March.
There is, naturally enough, some posturing at play. The Canucks have indicated they are comfortable with Luongo coming back. That’s a reach, especially since they have to sign his successor, restricted free agent Cory Schneider. That said, no amount of off-season conditioning changes the fact that Reimer is an unproven 24-year-old playing without a veteran backup in an incendiary market.
In three seasons, Gustavsson endured two heart ablation surgeries and the best intentions of a defensively-challenged team.
Signed to great acclaim from the Swedish Elite League, Gustavsson played 107 games and won 39 with a .900 save percentage and a 2.98 goals against average.
“I think it’s time for us as an organization to move on and I think it’s time for him to move on,” Burke said. “That’s certainly not for a lack of effort on Jonas’ part. Whether it’s the market or athletic ability or whatever, it doesn’t matter. He’s a guy who gave us his best.”
The Jets will now have between today and July 1 to sign Gustavsson before he becomes a free agent. Should he sign with the Jets, who see him as a backup goalie, the Leafs would receive a seventh round pick in next year’s draft.
Burke said the Leafs will remain in trade talks because, after a lengthy rebuild, they have accrued players that interest other teams
“This is the first time we have assets, young assets that people want,” he said. “We’re in a position to upgrade should we decide to do it.”
The Leafs were involved in talks to bring Jordan Staal to Toronto but fell away when it became clear that even if they acquired the towering centre, he would likely leave to play with his brother Eric. The Penguins traded Staal for a package build around flinty centre Brandon Sutter.
“We didn’t have a brother named Stall. That was part of the problem,” Burke said. It was the same thing when we got Scott Niedermayer from Anaheim. We had a brother named Robbie. That was a deciding factor and I’m sure that was a deciding factor here.”
In the fifth round the Maple Leafs grabbed Dominic Toninato, a six-foot centre from Duluth who scored 27 goals and recorded 61 points in high school. Toninato plans on playing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
“I’m a two-way centreman,” he said. “I have good vision of the ice and I like to be in playmaker with a good view of the ice.”
The Leafs chose two players in the sixth. Connor Brown, a five-foot-11, 170-pound right winger carded 25 goals and 53 points with 14 penalty minutes. A member of the sad sack Erie Otters, Brown was minus 72.
Right after him came Ryan Rupert, a native of Grand Bend who stands five-foot-10 and weighs 180 pounds. He scored 17 goals and racked up 120 PIMs.
The Leafs used their seventh round choice, a hangover for the deal that sent John Mitchell to the Rangers to draft Swedish forward Viktor Loov.