Paul Holmgren Happy to Have JVR Back with Flyers
In the offseason following the 2011-12 season, the last time the Flyers won a playoff series, then GM Paul Holmgren pulled the trigger on a move that is widely regarded as one of the worst in franchise history.
On June 23, the Flyers traded forward James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn.
Six years later, van Riemsdyk is back in the Orange and Black after signing as a free agent, the trade long behind him. For Holmgren, it’s a deal that will follow him forever. He’s well aware or where the trade ranks in franchise history.
"It's a trade that obviously didn't work out," Holmgren said to Philly.com on Monday. "We thought we were getting a top-four defenseman in return. Luke was a good soldier while he was here, but he didn't play at the level we thought he would play. That's the way it goes."
Holmgren has been behind three blockbuster trades during his recent tenure as GM. In addition to the JVR deal in 2012, he was also behind the trades with Columbus and Los Angeles in the 2011 offseason. His trade of Jeff Carter to Columbus netted Jake Voracek and a first-round pick used to select Sean Couturier. His trade of Mike Richards to LA brought back Wayne Simmonds and Brayden Schenn. Schenn was traded last offseason to St. Louis for a first-round pick used to select top prospect Morgan Frost. So those deals ultimately brought back key pieces to the present and future.
After the trade with Toronto, Luke Schenn spent the next three seasons with the Flyers and played 29 games in Philadelphia before being traded to Los Angeles in a deal with Vincent Lecavalier for Jordan Weal in 2016. In 213 games, he scored 12 goals and 42 points while posting a minus-6 rating. He was on the ice for 143 goals against with the Flyers.
Schenn finished out the 2015-16 season with the Kings before joining the Arizona Coyotes for the next two seasons. The 28-year-old signed this offseason with the Anaheim Ducks.
As for JVR, he became an established goal scorer over the six seasons since the trade. Overall, van Riemsdyk scored 154 goals in his time with Toronto, including a career-high 36 goals last season. Outside of an injury-shortened season in 2016-17, van Riemsdyk has scored at least 27 goals in four of the last five seasons and missed just three games in those seasons.
With numbers like that, it’s certainly understandable why Flyers management has expressed such excitement in adding such an established piece. Holmgren, now the Flyers president, noted that JVR "checks a lot of boxes" in where the team was looking to add and recognizes how far JVR has come since the trade six years ago.
"I think he's a more consistent player now," Holmgren said. "When we had him, he was in his early 20s. As they mature, their consistency level goes up usually, and it did with JVR. It's hard to find guys who can score like that. That was a tremendous signing for us."
A big chunk of the Flyers roster is becoming comprised of recent draft picks, ranging from Claude Giroux to Nolan Patrick. Last season, the Flyers had 13 players drafted by the team suit up for even one game. This season, the Flyers figured to have at least 10 of those players returning in significant roles. JVR, originally drafted by the Flyers in 2007, adds to the list.
"All of a sudden, there's a lot of players on our team who were drafted by the Flyers,'' Holmgren said. "That's kind of cool."
That is current GM Ron Hextall’s plan, building from within and using the draft to his advantage. Signing van Riemsdyk isn’t a pickup through the draft per se, but it is Hextall’s first big splash in free agency, setting the Flyers up with an immediate upgrade on the wing.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.