Trading Reimer Is (Probably) A Good Idea

With the trade deadline a little over a month away, it’s time for the Leafs to make some major decisions about their roster moving forward.  There might not be a bigger decision they have to make in the coming weeks than the one surrounding their goaltending – namely James Reimer, who’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.  Let’s take a look at the reasons for and against keeping Reimer beyond the deadline (and perhaps beyond the season).

THE CASE FOR KEEPING REIMER

1. He’s been the best goalie in the NHL this season.

Whatever goalie stat you like to use, Reimer’s probably at the top of the list for that stat this season.  All-situations save percentage?  Reimer leads the league with a .937.  Even-strength save percentage?  Reimer leads the league with a .955.  Shot quality save percentage?  Reimer leads the league with a .954.  High-danger save percentage?  Reimer leads the league with a .930.

2. He’s done it before.

Before this season, Reimer had two turbulent years under Randy Carlyle.  But let’s not forget the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season when Reimer led the Leafs to their only playoff berth since 2004 when he posted a .924 save percentage through 33 games played.  He wasn’t too shabby in his rookie season either, putting up a .921 save percentage in 37 games in 2010-2011.

THE CASE FOR TRADING REIMER

1. If you were ever going to trade him, now would be the time.

He’s an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.  He’s leading the league in a myriad of goaltending categories and he’s 27 going on 28, meaning he’s basically in his prime.  It’s time to either commit to Reimer long-term or get what you can for him while you can still get it.

2. The Leafs are still rebuilding.

Let’s be real here: the Leafs still suck, and they’re still in the early stages of a (hopefully) proper rebuild.  Yeah they have some good young pieces in their system, but they’re still at a stage where they should be stockpiling more.  And based on his play this season, Reimer is potentially the sort of player you could trade to net another draft pick or prospect.

Keep the long-term in mind here too.  How far away are the Leafs from really being contenders?  I’d say maybe 5 years, 3 years if you’re being really optimistic.  By then Reimer is 32 going on 33, and I can all but guarantee you he won’t be as good then as he is now.

3. The contract (plus other options).

Darren Dreger polled a bunch of “NHL management types” and the consensus is that Reimer is likely looking at a 5-7 year deal worth between $4.5 and $5.5 million.  I think I could stomach the weaker end of that (5 years at $4.5-$5.0M), but much more would make me feel uneasy.  Even then, it’s all relative – why pay Reimer $5M when you can go bargain bin shopping and get a goalie that’s just as good?  We’ve seen it time and time again, good goalies are easy to find on the cheap.  Hell, Jonathan Bernier is still under contract for another season, and I still believe he can bounce back and regain his form to become a legitimate #1 goalie.  But regardless of who the Leafs choose to experiment with, they have time before they really need to settle in with someone, because they probably won’t be competing for a Stanley Cup anytime soon.

CONCLUSION

I’ve always been a James Reimer fan and I’ll continue to be one whether he’s with the Leafs next year or somewhere else.  And based on his career up until this point, I’d be more than willing to commit to Reimer for a few more seasons.  But based on the fact that he’s in his prime right now, that the Leafs need more young assets, and that the Leafs are still a long ways away from being legitimately good, I think it makes more sense to trade him than to keep him at this point.  Yes there’s an uncertainty in goal if you move on from him, but there’s going to be lots of other options that present themselves over the years before the Leafs can actually ice a competent team in front of their goalie.  In other words, if we’re keeping the long-term in mind, trading Reimer probably makes more sense than keeping him.

  • Shawn Reis

    your opinion is wrong. we keep bernier, we’ll be at the bottom again tanking for next year’s 1st overall. he can’t play behind babcock’s structure for whatever reason. if he had any value, he would be the one gone. unfortunately, we’re stuck with him.

    • “he can’t play behind babcock’s structure for whatever reason.”

      You realize that Bernier has played exactly 21 games for Babcock? And that in 10 of those 21 games, he had better than a .915 SV%? I mean, he’s looked downright awful at times this year, but we’re still talking about a very small sample size here. To say he can’t play in Babcock’s system is a massive leap.

  • Shawn Reis

    Jonathan Bernier is not a #1 goalie. He never has been and he never will be. As Dreger stayed, he’s best suited as a strong back up to a good goalie. I’ve never been so frustrated with a goalie being so inconsistent and mentally weak as a Leafs fan and I’ve seen a lot of bad goaltending. I would keep Reimer for 4×4, 5×4 through the rebuild. This is a very young team and we don’t have goalie prospects beyond Bibeau who isn’t ready and Sparks who has shown some promise. Reimer can be the goalie until Sparks is ready to claim the net and then be a mentor for the young goalies through the rebuild. The Leafs should inquire about Murray or Jarry from the Penguins… They can’t keep both of those guys and both look like starting goalies one day. I would get rid of Bernier ASAP. That contract looked bad from Day 1. He can’t handle Toronto. Reimer can and he has the intangibles young guys can benefit from in this painful rebuild. He also wants to be here and has been nothing but loyal his entire tenure when he could have handled things differently so keep him.

  • Benjamin

    Biggest elephant in the ‘keep Reimer’ room is his injury history. He hasn’t put together a 60 game season since junior.

    If he’s your guy, you need a strong 1B option if you want to be competitive. So it’s not just the bigger cap hit he’s earned at this stage in his career, it’s also the (likely) larger one a suitable backup would need.

      • Gary Empey

        Re- “We’ve seen it time and time again, good goalies are easy to find on the cheap.”

        If this is true then there are quite a few GM’s who are in desperate need of your services.

        Edit: Being as I was trashed… If Shawn’s statement were true then Riemer has little of no trade value.

        • Shawn Reis

          Yeah, a lot of GMs out there seem to be not very good at actually finding these guys. But just off the top of my head, guys like Devan Dubnyk, Antti Niemi, and Michael Neuvirth have all signed for peanuts in free agency in the last couple of years.

  • Gary Empey

    If you get a first round pick at the deadline you take it no questions asked.

    I wouldn’t sign Reimer for more than 3 years at 4 million.
    He is an unproven 1st string goalie.

    But he has a great heart is a great team mate
    -and I bet he would prefer to stay in Toronto.

    Maybe year 3 of Reimer /Bernier tandem
    will be better.

  • Shawn Reis

    when I read in the article that we can replace a goalie on the cheap that is first in the league in 4 different areas, it makes me wonder about the validity of the article.
    There may be a reason for keeping Reimer and that is that the Leafs have been suffering in the ratings and there may be some pressure coming from the board to make this team competitive. Reimer offers the best opportunity to do that at an affordable price. Heck you are paying a guy 4.15mill that is not able to take the starting job and you don’t want to pay a guy who is leading the league that kind of money?

  • magesticRAGE

    Consistent goaltending is not easy to find, and the good one are not cheap. If that were the case, we’re not replying to this article, every team would have zero issues in goal. How many goalies are playing at elite levels right now? Like 5-7? Let’s say if Hiller was putting up Reimer’s (Vezna) numbers, would it be so unreasonable to see him get extended and paid? Surely not. Reimer is not easily replaced, therefore keep good goaltending while you have it.

    Also, Prime goaltending years are different. Belfor, Brodeur, Thomas, Louongo, Joseph. Consistent good goalies can often stay good for a good many years. Pay then man.

    • Shawn Reis

      I think part of the reason consistent goaltending is hard to find is because goalies are so inconsistent. There’s only a handful of goalies in the league who haven’t had a mediocre season or two in the last few years. I don’t think it’s fair to assume Reimer will be as good as he’s been this year every year. After all, the guy has had 2 great seasons before this, but he also has 3 incredibly mediocre seasons to his name too. Same case for a guy like Bernier who was great his first year here, was average-ish last year, and who has sucked this year. And look at guys like Jimmy Howard, Antti Niemi, Corey Crawford, Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Sergei Bobrovsky, etc. Unless you can get your hands on a Lundqvist or a Rask you’re going to get inconsistent goaltending on a yearly basis. I don’t think Reimer is Rask or Lundqvist.

  • Shawn Reis

    This argument that we should trade all valuable assets because we won’t compete for x amount of years is bogus.Keep Komarov, Sign Reimer and compete next year with these quality guys we drafted years ago and the Marlies guys this year.

  • Shawn Reis

    Just one thing on Reimer’s bad seasons. I dunno why so many people fail to see that the only real times James Reimer has put up poor stats is 1. while he was concussed 2. When we brought in Bernier and he was sitting literally weeks between starts. That last for the last 3 seasons. 3 seasons wasting developing Reimer. It pains me when I think about how much better he could have been if he hadn’t spent all that time rusting on the bench in favor of Bernier who was brought in for no reason. Yes no reason. Reimer was just coming off a hot season, had put up a .924 in the season and a .923 in the playoffs, facing and stopping the most shots for any goalie in round 1 despite being a newbie. There was no reason to bump him to backup at all. Anyway that’s done, can’t go back in time.

    Reimer is not cut out to be a backup. We have seen this time and time before that he needs consistent play to do well. Whenever he has to sit a while between games, he falters. Practice is not the same. This is the first time after acquiring Bernier that he’s getting consistent ice time this season and it appears to be working again. Just my two cents. I think Reims deserves to stay if he wants to and if the Leafs can get him at a reasonable price. He’s withstood enough with this team and wants to be a Leaf. Added bonus is his attitude and work ethic, he’ll be a great mentor for Sparks and Bibeau. He deserves this much.

  • Gary Empey

    The Leafs drafted him. He developed in the ECHL, then a couple of years for the Marlies. He then plays six years for the Leafs primarily in a backup role but averaging 35 games a year. Over this time he has improved every year, despite playing on defensively challenged teams. He will be 28 years old in Mar. this year. This is typically when goalies reach their prime. He has now reached the point where he leads the NHL in save percentage. What is the point in trading him just to start all over again?

    On the flip side, ” Do we now have three NHL caliber goalies in the system?” Sparks looks ready. That would mean one would have to go or be forced to play in the AHL.