The Toronto Maple Leafs are facing a tough decision this year - to keep or not to keep James van Riemsdyk. Their salary cap situation is extremely precarious, and could feasibly change the look of their offense next season.
Thanks to long-term injury reserve, they are sitting at exactly 0$ in cap space according to Cap Friendly. At the end of this season, van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak, Eric Fehr, Dominic Moore, and Leo Komarov are all set to be unrestricted free agents, while William Nylander, Josh Leivo, and Connor Carrick will be RFAs.
Matthews has another year on his entry-level deal, but he will easily command $10 million or more the following season - meaning Lou Lamoriello needs to plan ahead.
Not all of those players need to come back, but a few do. Nylander will most certainly command a big pay upgrade. This will make it quite difficult to keep a player like van Riemsdyk who can command $6 million or more on the open market.
Darren Dreger had this to say on TSN Wednesday night: "I expect that he'll be traded. [Teams] expect that JvR will be traded at some point between now and February 26th. It's just the reality of the situation around the NHL, and specific to here in Toronto. The Leafs would need a cap explosion. They'd need another 10-15 million for all of these players. He's a valuable asset to move out."
The big question becomes - do they keep JvR and make a playoff push, and let him go this summer, or trade him while he has value and acquire good assets?
Alternatively, do they do what they can to fit him in under the cap, as unrealistic as that probably is?