Under Pressure: James van Riemsdyk

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to focusing on a player coming off a breakthrough year to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Philadelphia Flyers.

James van Riemsdyk decided to go back to where it all began. After six years with the Toronto Maple Leafs, JVR inked a massive 5-year, $35 million contract with the team that drafted him, the Philadelphia Flyers.

The 29-year-old was one of the best scorers available on the free-agent market and he was certainly paid that way. He finished last season with 36 goals and 54 points in 81 games with the Leafs last season. JVR has found the back of the net at least 27 times in three of his last four years.

The Flyers managed to make the playoffs last season and adding van Riemsdyk to their roster clearly makes them better. But there’s a lot of pressure that comes with making a significant amount of money on a long-term contract.

After Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek, van Riemsdyk is now the third-highest paid player on the team. That automatically makes him one of the go-to guys on the roster. Even though he led the Maple Leafs in goals last season, van Riemsdyk wasn’t counted on to play the toughest minutes. Now, he’ll likely have to take on a second-line role while playing next to an unproven Nolan Patrick. That’s not to say it can’t work, but there’s going to be more pressure on him to score.

“Everything about the fit here seemed to be great,” van Riemsdyk said, per Philly.com. “Lots of talented players to play with, and I think a lot of good youth, too, on the way, which is exciting. The thing about the Flyers — the first thing I noticed [when] I was drafted here is that they’ll do whatever it takes to win. So that’s every resource you could possibly want and need to hopefully find an edge. That’s kind of the way it’s been here forever.  You want to be in a situation like that: Where, every year, no matter what it is, we’re going to do what it takes to find a way to win.”

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In his first tour of duty with the Flyers, van Riemsdyk 15, 21 and 11 goals before being traded to the Leafs for Luke Schenn. That trade ended up working out well for Toronto and terribly for the Flyers. So, in a way, the organization has righted a wrong. But van Riemsdyk will be 34 by the time this contract ends. How much longer is he going to be able to produce? Especially when you consider that a lot of his goals are scored around the net. Going to the dirty areas takes a toll on the body, which is why so few people are willing to pay the price to score.

In fairness to him, he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Over the last four seasons, his goals per game have increased from 0.329 to 0.35 to 0.353 to 0.44. Not too shabby.

There’s a good chance this deal won’t age well, but the Flyers probably know that. The biggest thing will be for van Riemsdyk to make it worth their while in the next one to three years. If he helps push them over the top by taking them through an extra round or two in the playoffs over the next few seasons, it’ll all be worth it.

MORE: James van Riemsdyk signing could spell end for Simmonds with Flyers

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.