RALEIGH — The Hurricanes filled a spot on their blue line Thursday, acquiring defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk from the Vegas Golden Knights just a day after he was selected in the expansion draft. Carolina also gets Vegas’ seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft while sending the 62nd overall pick — the latest of their three second-round selections that was originally Pittsburgh’s and acquired in the trade that sent Ron Hainsey to the Penguins — the other way.
“It’s definitely been a bit of a whirlwind the last 24 hours. … You find out about Vegas, and right away there’s speculation you might end up in Carolina, and that’s where I did end up and I couldn’t be happier,” van Riemsdyk said in a conference call Thursday afternoon. “It’s a great team that’s headed in a great direction, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Van Riemsdyk, who will turn 26 next month, is a 6-foot-2, 188-pound defenseman who spent the past three years with the Chicago Blackhawks. That included winning the Stanley Cup in 2015 while playing in four postseason games three wins and a loss in Games 3-6 in the Final against Tampa Bay.
“As a right-handed defenseman, Trevor fills an immediate need in our lineup,” Francis said in a press release. “He has obviously already experienced success in Chicago, and now will be another good, young piece on our blueline.”
Undrafted out of the University of New Hampshire — where he played with and was a roommate of Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce — van Riemsdyk earned a full-time role with the Blackhawks in 2015-16, playing in all 82 games and registering 14 points (three goals, 11 assists). His point total (16, with five goals and 11 assists) creeped up last year despite him only playing 58 games due to a right arm injury that kept him out of the lineup from late October until early December. The right-handed van Riemsdyk should fit on Carolina third pairing — perhaps alongside former first-round pick Haydn Fleury, a lefty — or could be part of a bigger plan that sees Hurricanes GM Ron Francis parlay one of his top-four defenders for scoring help.
“I just try to be a smart guy in my own end and get the puck to our forwards as quick as we can and pick and choose the right spots to be in the rush and try to help create on the offensive end as much as I can,” van Riemsdyk said of his style of play.
Van Riemsdyk — whose brother James, a forward with Toronto, has reportedly been on the trade block as well — played 18:24 minutes a night for Chicago last season in a mostly even-strength role, ranking fifth among the team’s defensemen with one second less of ice time than frequent partner Brian Campbell. He will make $825,000 this season and be a restricted free agent following the 2017-18 campaign.
He is the latest of several former Chicago players to come to Raleigh via trade. Scott Darling, Bryan Bickell, Teuvo Teravainen, Joakim Nordstrom and Kris Versteeg were all traded directly from the Blackhawks to Carolina. Van Riemsdyk officially comes from Vegas, but lasted less than a day on their roster after he was claimed in Wednesday’s expansion draft.
“I think that will make the transition a little easier,” van Riemdyk said of the familiar faces. “Obviously I know Scotty and Teuvo and Nordy. Like I said, I know Brett Pesce very well. And Noah [Hanifin], I met him for a month out in Germany [at the World Championships]. So it will definitely make the transition a little easier. And I’m sure the rest of the guys are great guys. I talked to Brett about it before and he’s loved his time in Carolina a lot so far, so I’m really excited to come and experience it.”
Carolina has dealt away three 2017 draft picks since the end of the season, acquiring the rights to Darling and van Riemsdyk while sending a pick to Vegas to influence their selection in the expansion draft (they took AHLer Connor Brickley), but still hold five of the draft’s first 67 picks and eight overall.