In what has been a busy week building the blue line, the Hurricanes on Thursday announced that the team had re-signed Trevor van Riemsdyk to a two-year contract for $2.3 million per year.
Trevor van Riemsdyk in 2017-18
Shortly after the deal was announced, I said on Twitter that van Riemsdyk was the steadiest of the Hurricanes defensemen in 2017-18. (This is not saying that he was the best defenseman…just most consistent in his specific role.) He was pretty consistent from beginning to end and was the anchor for a much-improved third defense pairing with a young defenseman next to him for virtually every shift. His scoring was modest with 3 goals and 13 assists but virtually nothing for power play ice time contributed to those totals. More significantly, van Riemsdyk stood out as a consistently solid defenseman and was the driving force for the third pairing improving by leaps and bounds over the 2016-17 season.
Trevor van Riemsdyk as a mentor
On Twitter after the signing was announced, I said:
4/5 Most impressive was uncanny ability to adapt to what his young partner needed,similar to John-Michael Liles with Pesce. He did heavy lifting with Fleury and initially with Hanifin but then had good knack for when to defer and push puck to Hanifin when he was confident/going.
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) July 6, 2018
Trevor van Riemsdyk started the season next to rookie Haydn Fleury. Fleury acclimated quickly to the NHL without any dramatic growing pains. Van Riemsdyk played a significant role in Fleury’s positive start in the NHL. Especially early on, van Riemsdyk did the heavy lifting in terms of moving the puck and relieving pressure such that Fleury could get his feet under him and adjust to NHL speed without a complete sink or swim trial. Then when Fleury moved up to play with Justin Faulk, van Riemsdyk started anew with another young defenseman in Noah Hanifin. Again, van Riemsdyk was a steadying force, and again he had an uncanny feel for how best to utilize and support his partner. Early on, van Riemsdyk drove the line somewhat similar to when he was with Fleury while Hanifin got his feet back under him. Then as Hanifin built confidence, van Riemsdyk deferred a bit more when Hanifin dialed up the Joni Pitkanen in his game. Van Riemsdyk in 2017-18 very much reminded me of John-Michael Liles helping Brett Pesce in 2015-16.
The contract and the process
There were some rumblings in the media about issues with the negotiations between van Riemsdyk and the Hurricanes a week or so back. But the process never really veered off schedule for a player coming off of a good season and possessing arbitration rights. Rightfully so, van Riemsdyk was not going to be low-balled. And if he did not get a modest premium over the bottom numbers for third pairing defensemen, he was going to roll the dice with an arbitration hearing. But as is always the case, the player and even more so the team have an incentive to avoid arbitration which can hurt the relationship. And as I said last Sunday, I think the run of depth defensemen contracts last summer made the last steps of this negotiation pretty straightforward and easy.
And there's another depth defenseman in $2-3M range. I call it now…Trevor van Riemsdyk for 2 or 3 years at $2.4-$2.5M per year. https://t.co/qgV4ADAkYU
— Canes and Coffee (@CanesandCoffee) July 1, 2018
I posted this after third pairing defenseman signings on July 1 included Nick Holden for $2.2 million per year, Brandon Manning for $2.25 million per year, John Moore for $2.75 million per year, Thomas Hickey for $2.5 million per year and Greg Pateryn for $2.25 million per year.
Sure enough, van Riemsdyk was signed only four days later and pretty darn close to the $2.39 million average for the batch of five comparable contracts.
My wild guess is that the Hurricanes were originally hoping to re-sign van Riemsdyk for more like $1.8 to $2 million which historically has been a fair and reasonably generous contract for a third pairing restricted free agent. But his agent balked and when a bunch of comparables came in at/near what van Riemsdyk was asking for, the process became pretty easy to finalize well ahead of an arbitration date.
At a more basic level, I like the deal. The price still seems high for a third pairing defenseman, but the market is what it is. As compared to the group, I like getting van Riemsdyk at a similar price to the other five, as I think he is a better player than most of them.
As for the step-wise process with some rumor rumblings in the middle. I think too much was made of what is regularly a step-wise process that can drag out all the way to an arbitration date. In in comments on my daily post on July 4 I wrote:
I think people are overestimating the issue with Trevor van Riemsdyk.
He is a restricted free agent with arbitration rights, so he does not have the ability to leave. Worst case is that it gets a little ugly, he goes to arbitration and gets a 1 or 2-year deal for a bit too much money. That could also set the wheels in motion for him to depart, but the team controls when and how that happens as a no-trade clause would not be part of arbitration. In that worst case scenario, there is bit of work to do to make sure that van Riemsdyk stays heads down (which he must anyway if we wants to keep his value up and get traded), but that’s manageable and on Brind’Amour, the captain(s) and van Riemsdyk himself.
But to be clear, I think there is a good chance that more is being made of this than is really the case. For players with a wide range of possible values, it is quite common for these situations to stretch out right up until an arbitration date late in the summer.
As I said on Twitter, I had van Riemsdyk pegged at $1.8-2 million per year entering the summer, but the run of depth defensemen signing for $2.25-3M on July 1 probably bumped that up and further fueled van Riemsdyk’s push for a bit more coming off a strong season in a limited role. But the positive is that I think that run of consistent pricing will also aid reaching an agreement.
I am on record as saying 2 years at $2.4-2.5 million per year, and I do not think the process should be that complicated to get there given the number of comparables.
Trevor van Riemsdyk’s role for 2018-19
I think van Riemsdyk’s role for the 2018-19 season will be nearly identical to the previous season possibly with an addition. He figures to pair with Haydn Fleury and lead a solid third pairing. As a veteran, he could also be asked to step up into a bigger role in the event of an injury. Most interesting will be seeing if he gets a look on the power play. If Justin Faulk departs as many expect, both of the primary power play defensemen (Faulk and Hanifin) will be gone. Dougie Hamilton certainly figures to take one slot, but the other is up for grabs. Van Riemsdyk was serviceable in a secondary power play role with the Blackhawks, so perhaps he can win power play ice time in 2018-19.
Two working assumptions dispelled in less than 48 hours
Beneath the headlines and the player transactions, today’s deal marked the second time in less than two days that a Tom Dundon/new management assumption had been dispelled. With the signing of Calvin de Haan, the management team showed both that it would spend money on the right free agents and also that it could lure higher-end players.
Then after concerns with both Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin hit stumbling blocks while negotiating their next contracts and were promptly traded today’s deal to re-sign van Riemsdyk shows that the team can in fact work through contractual differences without just jettisoning everyone who does not sign on the dotted line.
Both of those are significant as we continue to learn how the new management team works.
Impact on the Justin Faulk situation
Some believed that keeping Faulk around was a necessity at least until van Riemsdyk was signed and even considered Faulk for third pairing role. But in my opinion, today’s van Riemsdyk signing has minimal, if any, impact on Faulk. As a restricted free agent due a reasonable contract even with a big raise, van Riemsdyk was never going anywhere. And though Don Waddell will likely pipe up about the willingness to keep Faulk because defensive depth is so important, this is merely posturing. I said that I thought Faulk was destined to be traded immediately after the Dougie Hamilton deal, and I still believe that to be the case irrespective of today’s signing. What could make a difference however is the resolution of the the Erik Karlsson situation. Once he officially lands somewhere, teams hoping to add Karlsson on the right side will likely look farther down their list and see Faulk somewhere on it.
What say you Canes fans?
1) What do you think about the contract?
2) How significant is new management attracting a higher-end free agent and then being able to work through an initial contract disagreement to arrive at a mutually agreeable contract for van Riemsdyk?
3) What do you see as van Riemsdyk’s role for the 2018-19? Does anything change from 2017-18?