Flyers sign budding star James van Riemsdyk to a six-year, $25.5M contract extension

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The Philadelphia Flyers will have some decisions to make next summer, but one thing they won’t have to worry about is re-signing James van Riemsdyk. The team came to terms on a six-year extension with the budding star today to avoid a prolonged negotiation process next summer, when JVR was primed to become a restricted free agent. David Isaac reports that the six-year total is $25.5 million, which means that his annual salary cap hit will be $4.25 million beginning in the 2012-13 season.

However you might feel about the way the Flyers do business, they’ve shown some solid foresight in wrapping up soon-to-be stars before. They did so in November 2010 when they re-signed Claude Giroux to a three-year contract extension that will pay him just $3.75 million per season. That’s the kind of contract that opens up wiggle room for the team to reinvent itself with splashy moves such as trading Mike Richards and Jeff Carter while giving Ilya Bryzgalov a high-risk contract.

We’ll have to wait and see if this signing is as much of a home run as the Giroux deal. The Flyers are putting a lot of stock in the idea that JVR’s impressive 2011 playoff performances are a sign of a true breakout rather than just a brief run of excellence. No doubt about it, he was downright sensational at times in the postseason; it seemed like he could have scored four goals during his two-goal game against the Boston Bruins in the team’s overtime Game 2 defeat.

JVR needs to keep firing away

If you ask me, it could come down to confidence, which might be most tangibly illustrated by the staggering difference in the amounts of shots he put on net in the playoffs versus the regular season. In 75 regular season games in 2010-11, JVR scored 21 goals on 173 shots (2.31 shots per game). In 11 playoff games, he scored seven goals and put a dizzying 70 shots on net, which comes out to about 6.36 shots per game.

It’s not realistic to expect him to maintain that pace over 70+ games, but if he can hit somewhere around four shots per game, it’s not crazy to expect a 30 goal season in 2011-12. Hopefully he’ll share the vulcanized rubber with teammates every now and then, though; he didn’t register a single assist during his impressive 2011 playoff run.

Following in Bobby Ryan’s footsteps

JVR was part of a watershed moment for USA Hockey, as he went second overall behind fellow American-born winger Patrick Kane in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. The Chicago Blackhawks reaped immediate rewards from their top pick while the Flyers have been patient with van Riemsdyk’s development process, bringing him along slowly as he debuted with the team in 2009-10. In a way, his path is reminiscent of fellow U.S.-born second overall pick Bobby Ryan; the impressive power forwards may always be “the guys who were drafted after Sidney Crosby/Kane” but their teams’ patience is paying off on the ice and on accounting spreadsheets as well.

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Philly now has 16 players and about $51.3 million in cap commitments for the 2012-13 season, with Jaromir Jagr, Jakub Voracek, Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn ranking as their most prominent pending free agents next summer. The latter three will represent some tough choices for the Flyers, but they took care of their biggest concern today.

The Flyers’ investment is clearly based on their internal projections that JVR is primed to be a star. Every indication is that they were right about making a similar decision with Giroux, so this could be another huge move for the long-term viability of the franchise. There are always risks involved with these types of moves – especially when it comes to contracts as lengthy as these – but overall it looks like both sides won big.