Toronto Maple Leafs: Can James Van Riemsdyk Finally Turn Leafs into Contenders?

Robert TheodorsonSenior Analyst IJune 27, 2012

SAN JOSE, CA - FEBRUARY 28:  James van Riemsdyk #21 of the Philadelphia Flyers attempting to get his shot off in front of the net, trips over goaltender Antti Niemi #31 of the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion at San Jose on February 28, 2012 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 1-0. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

On June 23rd, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers came to a mutual agreement to trade struggling power forward James van Riemsdyk for defensemen Luke Schenn, a stay-at-home defender that had seen his ice time decline dramatically last season.

We all know that the Flyers, one way or another, are going to be competitive and in the race for the Stanley Cup for years to come. Since the lockout, the Atlantic Division has sent the Eastern Conference representative to the finals four times, including the Flyers back in the 2009-10 season.

Luke Schenn was deemed expendable after the Maple Leafs drafted defensemen Morgan Rielly and Matt Finn 5th and 35th overall, respectively.

It is also rumored that top defensive prospect Justin Schultz, who was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks 43rd overall but then spurned the team by refusing to sign an entry level contract, intends to become a Maple Leaf on or around July 1st when free agency starts.

Schultz has been playing for the University of Wisconsin, taking All-WCHA First Team honors two years in a row. If the young blueliner does indeed intend to sign with the Maple Leafs, there is a very good chance he makes the opening day roster with the departure of Luke Schenn. Not to mention Toronto must decide the fate of former Montreal Canadien Mike Komisarek, who signed a big deal with Toronto as a free agent a few seasons ago but has failed to live up to expectations.

James van Riemsdyk joins a potent offense with a ton of potential. With JvR figured to be inserted into the top six, forwards Nikolai Kulemin or Clark MacArthur must be moved down a line.

With the right linemates, the young New Jersey native will have a great chance to prove himself and show everyone he was worthy of the 2nd overall draft choice.

Snipers Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul will most likely pull opposing teams' best defensive pairing, leaving van Riemsdyk to face lesser opponents in the offensive zone.

It will be interesting to see which centerman is paired with van Riemsdyk. The Maple Leafs have a lot of talent down the middle with former Buffalo Sabre Tim Connolly, Mikhail Grabovski, Matthew Lombardi or longtime Leaf Tyler Bozak. Top prospects Nazem Kadri or Joe Colborne could be surprise teammates for the newly acquired power forward.

The Leafs have not been to the playoffs since the 2003-04 season. Will the results of this year's defense-heavy draft and the procurement of van Riemsdyk finally be the answer the Leafs have been looking for?