Flyers trade JVR to Toronto for Schenn
PITTSBURGH – As he was leaving the NHL draft Saturday afternoon at CONSOL Energy Center, Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren twice gave a warning.
“We’ll see what happens in the coming days or weeks,” he said twice.
What he meant was: in the coming “hours.” As the club’s charter was taking off back to Philadelphia, the Flyers announced a trade that had been rumored much of last season: James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn.
Luke Schenn is the older brother of Flyers center Brayden Schenn.
“My brother couldn’t believe it,” Luke Schenn said. “He said it was like a dream come true.”
Not for JVR, even though this represents a fresh start the oft-injured forward likely needed.
After declining to have surgery to repair a labrum injury in his right hip this off-season, and after the confusion and miscommunication surrounding the injury, his days in Philadelphia seemed numbered.
Van Riemsdyk’s agent, Alec Schall, said Saturday that Holmgren called his client this week and tried to relax his fears of being traded, telling JVR “not to worry,” he was staying a Flyer.
The kiss of death. Never say never.
“Homer called me and let me know what was going on,” van Riemsdyk said. “I have mixed emotions. The Philadelphia organization treated me well. Homer was great to me, Mr. Snider was great to me.
“To go to a place like Toronto is unbelievably exciting to me. Growing up a Yankees fan, the analogy for me is this is like playing for the New York Yankees of the NHL. I am looking forward to this new challenge and opportunity in Toronto."
Asked about whether Holmgren had promised he was not trading him this past week, JVR replied, “That’s between me and Homer.”
The 6-foot-2, 229-pound Schenn, 22, is neither Ryan Suter nor Keith Yandle, but he is a tough young defenseman who can grow with the Flyers. He will provide a coveted right-handed shot from the point, mobility and toughness.
In other words, the Flyers got better on defense, but they are a long way from filling Chris Pronger’s skates.
“He’s a big defenseman that plays physical and gritty, and he can move the puck,” Holmgren said. “To get guys like this you’ve got to be picking high in the draft. It’s an opportunity for us … and obviously James was taken high in the draft too. It’s another reason I believe why it’s a good trade for both teams.”
Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke had tried to pull this trade off ever since JVR’s strong playoffs two seasons ago.
“I’m excited,” Luke Schenn said. “It is a bit of a shock to get traded, but Philadelphia has always been a great organization. I think they are close to winning. I can’t believe it right now. It’s going to be exciting to play with my younger brother for sure.
“If you asked me [to name a couple teams] where I could get traded to, Philadelphia would be one. Obviously, you never expected to get traded. The Philadelphia rumors were swirling around during the season.“
Schenn has played five years and 310 games in the NHL with 14 goals and 75 points. Yet he found it hard to win approval from former Leafs coach Ron Wilson offensively and especially defensively.
JVR? He’s been like Schenn – up and down with spots of brilliant play. JVR has the potential to be that Scott Hartnell-type in front of the net but …
“I’ve told you enough about how strongly I feel about James becoming a good player, and I believe he will become a very good player in our league,” Holmgren said.
“Unfortunately for us, I think it’s going to be for Toronto now. The guy we got coming back is going to fill needs on our team and is going to be a good young player on our team. So I think it’s a win-win.”
Technically, Schenn has Pronger’s vacant spot for next season in terms of numbers along the blue line.
“I would never compare myself to Chris Pronger,” Schenn said. “He is obviously a Hall of Fame type of player.”
Holmgren didn’t rule out other possible moves to come before free agency opens on July 1.
“I don’t think anything shuts the door on anything else we may look to do to improve the hockey team,” he said. “We tried to improve our defense over the last few days, we looked for ways to try to improve it, and we think we did today.”
This will be the third set of brothers in Flyers history. There were the Watson Brothers at the beginning, then the Sutter twins, and now the Schenns.E-mail Tim Panaccio at email@example.com.