It wasn’t all that long ago that van Riemsdyk, 29, was playing top-four minutes for the Chicago Blackhawks and was an easy selection for the Vegas Golden Knights when left unprotected in the expansion draft. That status was tied to a deal that sent Marcus Kruger and his hefty contract to the Golden Knights, clearing cap room for the Blackhawks to work with but costing them the young defenseman.
Since Vegas was flush with defensemen through the draft however, van Riemsdyk was immediately flipped to the Carolina Hurricanes where he has spent the last three seasons. It’s hard to find a worse place for a right-handed defenseman to find minutes than Raleigh, who have had some combination of Brett Pesce, Justin Faulk, Dougie Hamilton and now Brady Skjei locked into the top two spots for van Riemsdyk’s entire tenure. The fact that he plays the left side as well would normally help in situations like that, but Carolina also happened to have names like Jaccob Slavin, Noah Hanifin, Joel Edmundson and now Brady Skjei on the team.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that van Riemsdyk has more to give than the 15-ish minutes he’s averaged over the last two seasons, but it certainly could. The Capitals lost Michal Kempny to an Achilles injury recently and have now brought in both Justin Schultz and van Riemsdyk to help that defensive group.
It could also mean that another move is coming though, given Washington’s cap situation. Sure, the team will have some extra flexibility when they move Kempny to long-term injured reserve, but he only carries a $2.5MM cap hit and the team is now over the salary cap ceiling. Jonas Siegenthaler was a regular last year and needs a new contract, while the team also could use another experienced forward addition.
Still, an $800K bet on van Riemsdyk seems like a prudent one for a team that knows first hand that long Stanley Cup runs require more than just six defensemen. Even if he’s the extra, he’s not costing them much.