The Flyers held an introductory, well re-introductory, press conference on Wednesday to welcome prized free agent James van Riemsdyk back to the organization. There were many reasons for his return, and we'll get into that later, but below are five takeaways to come out of the media session at Skate Zone.
Video: James van Riemsdyk and Ron Hextall: Pt. 1
1. WE CHOSE HIM... THEN HE CHOSE US
To begin an NHL career a highly rated, drafted-eligible player does not get to choose his team. The Flyers chose van Riemsdyk second overall in 2007 and he ultimately spent the first three years of his career in Philly. After being traded to Toronto and his next six NHL seasons, the time came for JVR to finally get to select a team of his choosing from many, many suitors.
He chose to return to Philly... and re-iterated why.
"The thing about the Flyers, the first thing I noticed ever since 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 so 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."
2. WHY TWENTY FIVE
One wouldn't think it was a topic that needed an immediate answer, but sure enough it was the first question posed at the podium. Why after beginning his NHL career with #21 with the Flyers, same goes for a period of time with the Leafs, did he change to #25... since #21 was off the table to Scott Laughton.
Said van Riemsdyk: "I was thinking about that and what I ended up deciding on. It's a new time, new change, new challenge so I wanted to have something to reflect that and obviously I switched in Toronto, so I'm just going to continue on with that and go from there. There was no jockeying for that."
3. WHERE'S THE FIT?
Now that he will suit up in Orange & Black again, the questions remains, where will he slot in the lineup? Special teams, etc...
Many pundits have him playing the left side on a line with another second overall pick (Nolan Patrick) and Jake Voracek on the right side, with also the addition of seeing a good amount of power-play time. The decision is ultimately up to Head Coach Dave Hakstol, but regardless, van Riemsdyk sees a natural fit just about anywhere.
"The great thing is there's lots of great options," said van Riemsdyk. "There's lots of talented players and for me, there's lots of good right shot players, being a lefty it's fun to play with right shot players. I think that chemistry comes a little more naturally with that sort of stuff. Again, there's going to be lots of different things that I'm sure that we'll go through in training camp and to start the season and we'll find out what works best."
Video: James van Riemsdyk and Ron Hextall: Pt.2
4. FOREVER YOUNG
There's no doubt that a more seasoned and experience JVR comes back to the team than his younger self. What's also apparent is that he will be joining a team full of youth coming up through the ranks, similar to the situation he flourished in Toronto with the likes of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, etc.
"The teams tend to be a little bit younger now so that's a little bit different. I remember walking in here my first training camp and you had guys like Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen and [Ian] Laperrière, guys like that. It's interesting to see the shift in the average age of guys over the course of my career.
Added van Riemsdyk: "You see up front... there's lots of talent and lots of depth to play with, so there's different sort of options and different things to try. Again, I think my skill set definitely compliments some of the guys that have been here already and I'm excited to get started with that."
5. GM SPEAKS
Following the formal press conference, Flyers GM Ron Hextall addressed the media in a typical scrum setting where a number of topics were brought up.
On the team's final restricted free agent, Robert Hagg:
"We're looking at a two-year deal. Seems to be where Hagger's at in his career, that seems like a fair deal. If he decides to sign his deal, that's up to him," said Hextall.
Hextall touched on the subject of Wayne Simmonds. He reiterated that the club would like to keep Simmonds, who has one more year remaining on his contract. As for the effect it can have on the club and player possibly entering the final year of his contract:
"If we get something done before training camp or going into the year, I don't have the answer for that... Simmer's got the character that something like that is not going to affect him. It's not going to affect our team. I can certainly live with it. I'm sure he can too."
On the injury front, there is no concern whatsoever on the long list of injuries Simmonds battled throughout the year. "His surgery was six weeks before Giroux's or Gostisbehere's," said Hextall. "Six week in the summer is a lifetime. We have zero concerns about Simmer or about how he's going to come back in training camp."
Finally, Hextall touched on the addition of defenseman Christian Folin and the effect he could have on the team's penalty kill should he be in the lineup.
"Christian is a good penalty-killer. He's a right shot, which is important. Whether he's in the lineup or not, who knows. That's an upgrade there, we feel. Internally, our guys have got to get better. That's the bottom line there."