PITTSBURGH — Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke has said repeatedly he wants to get bigger up front.
He took a step in that direction Saturday.
The Leafs GM pulled the trigger on a significant move after the NHL draft concluded, acquiring left-winger James van Riemsdyk from the Philadelphia Flyers for defenceman Luke Schenn.
Van Riemsdyk, who missed significant time last season with a broken left foot, had 11 goals and 13 assists in 43 games for the Flyers in 2011-12.
Burke says the six-foot-three, 200-pound van Riemsdyk will add a physical element to a lineup that was pushed around far too often last season.
“He will provide speed, size, and finesse to our top two lines and we know that he fits those needs that we have wanted to address for some time,” Burke said in a statement.
Van Riemsdyk shared the Flyers’ team lead with seven goals in 11 playoff games in 2011 after earning career highs in goals (21), points (40) and a plus-15 in 75 games during the regular season.
“To go to a place like Toronto is unbelievably exciting for me,” van Riemsdyk said on a conference call. “Just the tradition they have there, the city, the fans it’s all unbelievable and growing up a big-time Yankees fans, a good analogy for me is that it’s like playing for the New York Yankees of the NHL.”
The 23-year-old was the second overall pick in 2007 and has 47 goals and 52 assists for 99 points in 196 regular-season games.
A two-way forward who uses his size and speed to create chances, Van Riemsdyk says things just didn’t work out in Philadelphia and added that he’s looking forward to a fresh start with Toronto.
“Anytime anyone gets drafted they picture things perfectly. You imagine playing (in a city) for your whole career, winning a few Cups, but that’s not the way things always work out,” he said. “All I focus on is coming to the rink every day and working hard.”
For Schenn, meanwhile, the deal reunites him with his younger brother Brayden, who is a centre with Philadelphia.