Arbitration and James Reimer

James Reimer was among the first restricted free agents to file for salary arbitration this season. That means that I had to spend a good portion of my morning going back over all the arbitration rules, since I tend to forget them over the summer.

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The key thing to note is that by filing for arbitration, Reimer can no longer negotiate with other teams and other teams can not sign the young goaltender to an offer sheet. I was wondering if that might be a route taken by a rogue team seeking to improve their goaltending situation, being able to pay up to about $3-and-a-half million without giving up too much, but that door is closed right now. The Leafs must sign or trade Reimer.

Reimer rejected his qualifying offer of $1.6-million, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. As a 26-year-old goaltender with a .914 career save rate and two excellent seasons to his name, you’d figure James would have a bit more clout this offseason, but no. The goaltender market is drying up. A few NHL teams are beginning to acquire whatever talented goaltenders they can get for cheap and seeing which ones develop into stars. About half of the league has committed long contracts to their “star” goalies, further restricting the number of teams in the market for a 1B starter who can play 35-40 games. Vancouver, Calgary and Long Island, three logical destinations for Reimer, opened their chequebooks this summer for Ryan Miller, Jonas Hiller and Jaroslav Halak.

There aren’t too many teams without obvious starting goaltenders. St. Louis, Minnesota and Winnipeg may qualify, but the last two might need to be convinced that Reimer is an upgrade over their current crop. Once you’ve identified a team as needing a starter, you still need to sell them a player at a cheaper cost than whatever replacement they could find on the market, whether it’s from their own system (St. Louis have Jake Allen, Minnesota have Darcy Kuemper, and Winnipeg have Michael Hutchinson) or currently unsigned, like Ilya Bryzgalov or Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

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I can’t imagine Reimer likes the idea of dragging this team by the scruff of the neck into the playoffs months before the team trades for somebody else, and then getting relegated to the bench as he struggled and the new guy put up a career season. I doubt that next season, Reimer posts below a .911 save percentage and Jonathan Bernier above a .922, but the respective 2014 seasons of the two goalies at least dictate some of the strategy through this offseason.

I find it interesting that Nonis is willing to negotiate with Reimer under the threat of arbitration, something he wasn’t willing to do with Bernier a year ago. I don’t think that Bernier, at the time, had as strong of a case for a raise as Reimer does now. Unless Reimer is awarded above $3.5-million (which isn’t going to happen) the Leafs must sign him to the contract awarded by the arbitrator.

It is worth noting though, that few cases actually make it to arbitration, with the parties usually settling their differences on the courthouse steps. That’s what happened a year ago with Mark Fraser, and I think both sides recognize that it probably isn’t a good idea to bicker during the hearing, where the Leafs would literally be arguing in front of Reimer why Reimer isn’t worth whatever it is Bernier makes.

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While the feud may be overblown, that certainly wouldn’t help it.

The good news is that the Leafs can afford to lose a few dollars on this. If a decision, or the negotiations, go Reimer’s way as opposed to the Leafs’, we’re probably talking about a maximum change of about $400K in salary cap room on a one or two-year deal, so nothing with real long-term issues. Thanks to the fact that nobody seems to want to play in Toronto anymore, the Leafs have about $14-million in salary cap space to sign Reimer, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Peter Holland, and two depth defencemen.

I could go through comparable contracts for Reimer to try and pinpoint what he’ll make, but Elliot Saccucci at Maple Leafs Hot Stove has already done that:

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If I’m Reimer’s agent, I’m looking at the Kari Ramo, Steve Mason and Jonathan Bernier contracts and suggesting to the arbitrator that Reimer’s statistics (GAA, SV%, SO’s) are generally comparable or better than those players, over a greater sample size (excluding Mason), and he is therefore deserving of a contract in the $2.75 – $2.9 million range, which would be a 72-82% raise (you’re welcome, James). If I was representing Reimer, I would also try to discount the relevance of Holtby’s current $1.85 million AAV contract by suggesting that Holtby’s contract is roughly equivalent to the last contract that Reimer signed, which was a “show-me” contract, and that having maintained better than average starting goaltender statistics over the course of that contract, Reimer is now deserving of a contract in line with the other three above-mentioned starting goaltenders.

Again, even if the reward coming in is on the higher end, it’ll be a one year contract, with no long-term consequences and likely won’t affect his trade value, especially if a team’s starter gets hurt early next season and they need a stopgap option. But I’ve been wrong about these things before.

The real problem here is that goalies just don’t have much value on the trade market anymore, as they shouldn’t. There are about 50 quality goaltenders in the world and 30 starting goalie jobs. If the Leafs were to dump Reimer for anything and not get anything back, then they’ll have to pick up somebody else, and the odds of getting somebody as cheap and effective as Reimer is low.

Concluding thought: Thank Kessel that Cam Ward wasn’t born in Mimico.

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  • Lupul4Captain

    I wonder why they wouldn’t also include the % of the cap when thinking of salary when looking at comparables. If the cap went up 10% then his price should be comparables plus 10% I would think.

  • MaxPower417

    I hope the Reimer situation does not turn into a distraction on the Leafs.

    There is blame to go around as Carlyle IMO did more than just say “he was just OK”

    I think even though they started Reimer to start the season and even though Reimer played very well at the beginning of the season- I thought they anointed
    Bernier #1 too early in the season (even if Bernier marginally out played Reimer)

    But on the other side Reimer has acted alike “a bit of a woose”
    as anywhere he goes he will have to fight for the #1 spot.
    And NHL players shouldn’t be able to have it both ways -Reimer is a restricted free agent and will
    sign a contract with the Leafs. If he is under contract he is doing nothing to add to his value
    if he causes turmoil in the dressing room.

    And the Leafs are better off keeping Reimer instead
    of bringing martin Brodeur to the Leafs.

  • FlareKnight

    Should be interesting to see what they end up doing. Ideally they get him signed to something reasonable before the arbitration hearing. Though I do think if they get him in there they should have enough ammunition to rip into him.

    Honestly I’m not sure what Reimer is expecting to find out there. No team is going to hand him the starting job. And fighting for the job here may not be any worse than fighting for a job in another city.

    As things stand he isn’t a #1 goalie. The only starting year he had was in a shortened season where he played about as much as he played in this year.

    I hope they can find someone willing to take him in a trade. Even though it means having to look for a backup it just doesn’t seem like it’d be a good situation.

  • The Craig

    Are we using “Thank Kesel” in place of Thank God? Or did Kessel have something to do with Can Ward not being born in Mimico?

    If the former : I can get on board with that.

  • Evan

    All of the options currently available to take Reimer’s place rank between below average and dismal. I think they should keep him. One or two more wins can mean the difference between playoffs and golf, and Reimer is capable of stealing at least that many more games than the alternative goalies.

    Maybe they could trade him this off-season and get a second round pick. Is it really worth it, given the hit to their playoff chances?

  • FlareKnight

    “…the Leafs have about $14-million in salary cap space to sign Reimer, Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Peter Holland, and two depth defencemen.”

    Who are the depth defencemen?

    I have Phaneuf, Reilly, Polak, Robidas signed

    Franson, Gardiner RFA

    Ranger is a UFA who probably isn’t coming back.

    Lots of Depth on the Marlies.

    Granberg, Percy, Holzer and MacWilliam are all signed and available. It’s probably better to give some of these a look and if merritted…perhaps a promotion.

    Do you really want to block a prospect? All those guys logged big minutes in many games in a a recent AHL playoffs. The next step is on the horizon.

    Granberg looked good. Percy should get a least a little look during the course of the season. Maybe MacWilliam? Tom Nislso might surprise Even just a few games and travel with the big team as a 7th defenseman can help these guys get used to being future Leafs.

  • MaxPower417

    What is this “woe is me” James Reimer stuff.
    When Bernier was injured (twice this past season) Reimer was given the opportunity to solidfy himself as being a #1 starter. He failed. Life may not be fair but he need to take advantage of your opportunities.

    Do you want to take about a signing fiasco. Look at the cirus of R’OR on the avs from started sitting the previous season until signing an offer sheet and who has elected arbitration this season? And Franson has also elected arbitration in the past and his storied past on the leafs.

    As a leaf fan, this is great as it means Reimer will get resigned by the leafs at what looks to be a fair and decent contract. The rest is business but if you want to talk about not treating players fairly I’d go look at some other NHL teams fella.

    • MaxPower417

      “Reimer was given the opportunity to solidfy himself as being a #1 starter. He failed. Life may not be fair but he need to take advantage of your opportunities.”

      You’re an idiot.

  • MaxPower417

    People saying Reimer was given the opportunity when Bernier went down and failed… Did you watch the defense in front of him down the stretch? How many 2 on 1s, breakways, premium scoring chances were given up? How many times was Stamkos left all alone in the slot? How many times were we pinned in the zone for over a minute?

    Maybe Reimer didn’t play as well as he was capable to steal a couple games, but I believe that’s also a reason why you don’t sit him for a month in between starts. Then throw him in when you need him and expect him to be clutch?

    Remember the “24/7 losing streak?” Bernier was out there letting in 3 or 4 goals some times… I kept saying “Maybe play Reimer. Give Bernier a break and see if Reimer can change it up a little.” But we kept going back to Bernier, even as the losses mounted up. So much for win and you’re in.

    It’ll be interesting to see this if it goes to arbitration. Are the Leafs going to go in arguing that Reimer has a bad glove hand and bad rebound control? Or are they going to argue his stats aren’t good, even though his are no worse than Bernier’s. Or his career SV% is .001 lower than Jonathon Quick’s?

    • MaxPower417

      I’m not saying this is alright but the Leafs gave up just as many odd man rushes down the stretch as they did throughout the early to mid times during the regular season. (Probably due to the kick to the head as mentioned by Derek I believe during the L.A game, Reimer was pretty awful during the eight game losing streak. I’m not hanging it all on him but I was at the New Jersey Devils game they lost during the eight game losing streak and Reimer was TERRIBLE. I did not count a single legit scoring chance until after Reimer was pulled in that game. Again, this was probably due to the kick to the head but there is no need to defend Reimer for what happened in that eight game losing streak. He was just as much to blame for that as anyone else on the team. While it is not acceptable to entirely blame it on him, it is also not acceptable to defend him for his play.

      As for the “24/7 losing streak” you mentioned, yeah that was Carlyle acting like Carlyle by keeping Bernier in net every night. I’m with you on that one.

      All in all I forgive Reimer because he dragged the Leafs into the playoffs in 2012-13 and without him there was no chance of them making it.

    • TGT23

      It was the SAME DEFENSE!

      Why do people think pointing out the teams defensive flaws helps Reiner’s case when Bernier played far better? It makes no sense.

      Reimer was well below Bernier all season, even before the head kick incident, and while that may have been a big problem for him late in the season a lot of those games in the losing streak are easily attributed to Reimers poor performance.

      If I’m the Leafs, I point to his concussion issues, his inconsistencies, and other backup goalie salaries to try to bring down the cost. Or… Trade him for whatever you can realistically get.