The Flyers hope the signing of unrestricted free-agent James van Riemsdyk works much better than the left winger’s printer.
After a delay in signing his five-year, $35 million contract because of a printer malfunction, van Riemsdyk and the Flyers were able to complete the deal Sunday, enabling the New Jersey native to return to the organization that selected him No. 2 overall in the 2007 draft.
“There was a sense of comfortability and knowing what the organization was all about,” the high-scoring van Riemsdyk said in a conference call with reporters.
He recalled from his previous stint with the Flyers “just how bad they want to win, and they’re willing to put the resources into that. That passion and that commitment was a big thing for me.”
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General manager Ron Hextall said that van Riemsdyk, 29, “has the Flyers logo embedded in him” because he played for the club, and that the signing gives the team a missing piece.
“We needed a left winger, particularly in our top six,” Hextall said. “… It gives us a true left winger who is a good net-front presence; he’s a big body with soft hands, so we really value what James is going to bring us in the next five years.”
Van Riemsdyk, a power forward who scored a career-high 36 goals last season and was one of the most coveted free agents in the market, is six years older and a much better player than the one who was dealt to Toronto in 2012.
“I’ve gotten more experience and had a real big opportunity to expand my role in Toronto,” he said. “I got a chance to do some different things, play more of a prominent role on the power play, play some more minutes.”
He admitted to being “a little naive” in his first stint with the Flyers and “thinking you’re going to be in one place your whole career.”
Van Riemsdyk’s new deal carries an annual cap hit of $7 million, and it does not have a no-trade clause.
“First and foremost, I looked at the team they have,” van Riemsdyk said. “The players they have, the guys they have coming up, too. I’m really excited about that.”
Van Riemsdyk said he talked to coach Dave Hakstol, management, and star players Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek to “feel them out a bit” before making his decision.
“It’s going to be a great fit,” he said, adding that 10 or 12 teams showed interest in signing him.
Hextall said he can live with the five-year term. “We can manage our way around the salary cap.”
In 2012, the Flyers sent the left winger to Toronto for Luke Schenn, and it became one of the worst trades in franchise history.
Van Riemsdyk, who was selected by the Flyers with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft (behind Patrick Kane), became one of the league’s most dependable left wingers in his six years with the Maple Leafs, while Schenn was a bust.
“James has matured physically over the past few years,” said club president Paul Holmgren, who was the Flyers’ general manager in 2012. “I think it is fair to say he has become a more consistent player. We are excited to have James back.”
Hextall liked the fact that many members of the Flyers brass knew the 6-foot-3, 217-pound van Riemsdyk from his time in Philadelphia.
“We had people who were here and, trust me, I picked their brains,” he said.
The player they call “JVR” just finished a six-year, $25.5 million deal with Toronto.
Van Riemsdyk, a native of Middletown in Central Jersey who grew up as a New York Rangers fan, is happy to be playing close to home again.
“My parents are doing back flips right now,” he said. “It’s an exciting day to share this with them.”
After starring at the University of New Hampshire, van Riemsdyk spent three seasons with the Flyers and scored a total of 47 goals.
He averaged 31 goals per 82 games in his six seasons with the Maple Leafs.
Van Riemsdyk will probably be the Flyers’ second-line left winger on a unit centered by Nolan Patrick. Giroux is their No. 1 left winger.
Hextall did not rule out the possibility of moving Giroux back to center. That, however, would be a surprise because Giroux (102 points) and center Sean Couturier (76 points) were among the NHL’s best combinations.
Van Riemsdyk can be used on either the first or second power-play unit. The second unit struggled mightily last season, scoring just one goal in which all three members of that unit had a point.
This is Hextall’s biggest signing since he became the Flyers’ general manager four years ago. He was also in the market for a third-line center and veteran defenseman but said he wasn’t comfortable with the long-term contracts those players wanted.
Here is how the Flyers’ lines could look with van Riemsdyk in the lineup, assuming they don’t make any other moves and that center Morgan Frost, the team’s best prospect, spends another season in the OHL:
- Couturier centering Giroux and Travis Konecny.
- Patrick centering van Riemsdyk and Voracek.
- Scott Laughton or Jordan Weal (who played wing last season) centering Oskar Lindblom and Wayne Simmonds.
- Jori Lehtera centering Michael Raffl and Dale Weise/Taylor Leier. Mike Vecchione and Mikhail Vorobyev are among other center candidates.
The Flyers have $14.7 million in cap space, but they still need to sign four or five players. They have given qualifying offers to a handful of restricted free agents, including Robert Hagg and Leier. … Hextall said adding van Riemsdyk doesn’t affect his plans to talk to Simmonds’ agent, Eustace King, about a contract extension for the right winger. … Former Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning signed a two-year deal with Chicago with an annual cap hit of $2.25 million. Hextall called Manning a warrior, but he said he had no interest in bringing him back, and he added he will not re-sign center Val Filppula. … The Flyers’ development camp will end Monday with a three-on-three competition at their Voorhees facility at 1 p.m.