Jeff Veillette (Jeffler)
July 25 2014 04:38PM
Contrary to popular belief, teams and players don't want to get into screaming matches about how much the other side sucks. Arbitration is a tough and gruesome process, and with speculation that the bickering has hit "broken beyond repair" status, it's probably best for James Reimer and the Toronto Maple Leafs to find a way to split the difference.
They did just that today, agreeing to a 2 year, 4.6 million dollar deal with an AAV of $2.3 million.
A great signing
Yes, this move makes a lot of sense for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It's just about the perfect scenario, really; it's beneficial to them whether he stays or goes.
This deal puts him Reimer in the same salary range, with the same years, as Ben Bishop, Ben Scrivens, Anton Khudobin, and Michal Neuvirth. Of these guys, he's the second youngest, only a week older than Neuvirth.
This range is more or less the accepted one for testing to see if a goalie is the "real deal" before hitting unrestricted free agency. Neuvirth probably had the easiest route to get there, not crossing having not yet had a significantly above average NHL season in his career. But the Sabres needed to commit money to somebody, so he sees the inflation.
Bishop put up a stellar 0.924 in 63 games played last season. He surely would be making way more money, if it wasn't for the fact that he hasn't played more than 13 games in any other year prior. As such, he sees this deal. If he repeats this season a couple of times over, he'll probably be tripling his salary.
Scrivens put up slightly above average numbers with Toronto and Edmonton over the past two years, while really excelling under the Los Angeles Kings in between. There's reason to believe that he's at least an above average starter, but hasn't played more than 32 games with any NHL team.
Khudobin is also a case of inexperience, but in my opinion has the highest upside of the bunch, posting "great" (+0.010) SV% numbers in 4 of the last 5 seasons, interrupted by a 12/13 where he was only 8 points over. The only other two goalies to do this in the same time frame were Henrik Lundqvist and Tuukka Rask. Again though, it's a very small sample.
Reimer has the most NHL experience of the bunch, playing 140 games to date. His issue is that his numbers have gone up and down, something that many (include myself) attribute to injuries.
While you can't expect a player to be healthy at every waking moment of his career, his all-time save percentage of 0.914 is in line with league averages over his time of play. $2.3 million dollars for a safe bet to give you at least competent performance is solid, particularly when you have an above average goalie ahead of him that will likely take up most of the games played. For a combined salary of $5.2 million, you can do a lot worse.
In the event that the Leafs are looking to trade the 26 year old, they've likely increased his value with his contract. First and foremost, having him signed guarantees that the Leafs won't have a hold-out situation on their hands, disallowing other GM's from using that argument. Beyond that, a two-year deal buys a year of free agency, meaning other teams will be guaranteed to have him longer, and that the Leafs have more time to find the right suitor.
I wouldn't be surprised if he sticks around, however. There aren't many options left on the market in terms of backups for the Leafs, meaning they'd be taking one back from a team. At that point, why wouldn't other teams just stick with what they had, unless they were giving up a known to be worse goaltender? The Leafs can't be that concerned with their own egos that they would consider intentionally blowing a trade like that. It seems more likely that they mend their bridges and try to maintain the duo for at least another year.