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On Saturday night’s Hockey Night in Canada, analyst Jeff Marek introduced a player on the NHL trade block who has ties to Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ron Hextall and could be a great fit for the Penguins.

Marek reported that the Philadelphia Flyers have made James van Riemsdyk available. Hextall signed van Riemsdyk to his current five-year, $35 million contract that expires after this season, making him a UFA.

The penguin kit has several layers.

Van Riemsdyk, 33, is a goal-savvy LW. In 12 games played this season, he has 11 points, including five goals. He had 24 points last season. Van Riemsdyk could not only score with Jeff Carter on the Penguins’ third line, but also provide insurance if one of the Penguins’ top two left wingers gets injured.

Jason Zucker is out week after week. Although he’s been playing his best hockey since the Penguins signed him in February 2020, Zucker has been injured often, so the insurance policy won’t suffer.

van Riemsdyk is 6-foot-3, 217 pounds and is the main netminder on the Flyers’ power play. He scored 10 goals last season and 19 over the last two. As a big man in front of the net, JVR will give the Penguins an element they haven’t had in several seasons.

Financially, van Riemsdyk will be one of those hard to get players due to the salary cap. The teams that should want him are the same teams that can’t afford him because his $7 million cap hit is steep, especially for that level of production.

Marek also made it known that the Flyers and GM Chuck Fletcher were willing to eat some of his salary in order to trade him.

“The Philadelphia Flyers made him available. The actual cash here is $5 million (and) $1 million was already paid as a bonus last summer,” Marek said. “The cap hit is $7 million … The Flyers might as well eat some of that to make James van Riemsdyk more palatable to a team looking.”

Most playoff contenders are strongly against the salary cap. The acquiring team would have to force Philadelphia to eat a portion of the contract, offer an NHL salary in return, and give up something of value.

NHL Trade / Salary Cap Implications

With the salary cap at risk, the Penguins wouldn’t need to come up with the full $7 million or even $3.5 million (50% salary cap) to sign the winger. For offseason deals, the player’s cap hit remains the same, but the acquiring team only needs to have enough cap space for his remaining salary.

The Penguins do have some pretty obvious starting points for discussions to come close to balancing that $3.5 million number. However, the Flyers will surely demand additional compensation, including a young player, significant draft pick or prospect.

Since becoming the Penguins’ GM in February 2021, Hextall has acquired several players he has been involved with in the past. His first move was to claim Flyers defenseman Mark Friedman off waivers. He also acquired Jeff Carter from the LA Kings, for whom Hextall was AGM (and again a senior advisor before being hired by the Penguins) during Carter’s tenure.

Even Rickard Rakell was seen often by Hextall as he was a member of the Kings’ rival, the Anaheim Ducks.

The NHL trade deadline is March 3rd and there will be plenty of potential Penguins trades and probably a few rumors, but right now this one might be for the Penguins.

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