James Reimer Opts for Salary Arbitration

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Photo: NHLI via Getty Images

James Reimer and the Toronto Maple Leafs will go to arbitration to determine what the embattled Leafs goalie is worth. Hint: he’s getting a raise.

In my last article, I discussed the upcoming Club-elected salary arbitration of Ryan O’Reilly and the Colorado Avalanche. The flipside of Club-elected salary arbitration is Player-elected salary arbitration, which procedurally is the mirror image of Club-elected arbitration with the Player driving the process and being given the opportunity to present his case first rather than the Club.

Yesterday, CBC’s Elliotte Friedman broke the story on Twitter that James Reimer was among the first players to file for Player-elected salary arbitration. Under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”), specifically Article 12.2, Reimer had until 5pm on July 5th to provide notice of his election. Without reading too much into the situation, it seems clear that Reimer and his agent Ray Petkau are intent on sending a message to the Toronto Maple Leafs that Reimer’s time as an affable back-up in hockey’s Centre of the Universe is over one way or the other.

Reimer is a Group 2 Restricted Free Agent (“RFA”) because the Toronto Maple Leafs extended him a qualifying contract offer of $1.6 million dollars in accordance with Article 10.2(a)(ii)(C) of the CBA, which required the Club to offer him 100% his actual salary from the preceding season. This is Reimer’s final off-season as an RFA as he’ll be 27 years of age before June 30th of next year, meaning he will be a Group 3 Unrestricted Free Agent (“UFA”) – as provided by Article 10.1 – whenever his next contract expires.

Now that James Reimer has filed for player-elected salary arbitration, what happens next?

Generally, Article 12.9(c) would allow the Toronto Maple Leafs (as the party being brought to arbitration) to elect whether the awarded contract would span one or two years; however, because Reimer is eligible to become a UFA next offseason the arbitrator will only be permitted to award a one year contract. Meaning — barring a negotiated agreement  — James Reimer will be a UFA at the end of the 2014-2015 season, at which time he’d undoubtedly shop his services to a club needing a viable starting goaltender.

As I described in my last article, during the arbitration the Player and the Club will be permitted to lead evidence about Reimer’s statistical performance in previous seasons and also be allowed to lead evidence about allegedly comparable players’ performance for the sake of comparison. The comparison evidence isn’t unlimited, however, and Article 12.9(g)(iii)(A) states that the Player and Club are only allowed to introduce as evidence contracts which were signed when the relevant player was also a Group 2 RFA.

Although it’s only conjecture at this point, I’d suggest that the list of comparators for Reimer’s arbitration hearing is likely to include (at least) the following goaltenders who signed their current deals with their respective Clubs as Group 2 RFA’s.

James Reimer Comparables

GoaltenderComparator(Regular Season)GPWLOTGAASP (%)SOCurrent ContractYears & AAV
Last season34121613.290.9111Expiring deal: 3 x $1.8 million
Cory SchneiderCareer1437141202.120.925123 x $4.0 million
Season deal was signed3320811.960.9373
Steve MasonCareer300133119342.790.907232 x $2.9 million
Season deal was signed61331872.50.9174
Jonathan BernierCareer1175539132.510.91872 x $2.9 million
Season deal was signed149311.880.9221
Kari RamoCareer882836143.030.90222 x $2.75 million
Season deal was signed (KHL)40269520.9292
Ben ScrivensCareer72273062.690.91762 x $2.3 million
Season deal was signed40161642.550.9224
Braden HoltbyCareer105603182.60.919112 x $1.85 million
Season deal was signed36231212.580.924
James ReimerCareer1406548152.850.91411

Interestingly, Reimer has played only three fewer games than Cory Schneider, and has only one less shutout despite playing for a team that is defensively porous, and with the exception of one lock-out shortened season he has suffered from bottom-dwelling penalty killing proficiency. Kind of makes you re-evaluate what you think you know about this goaltender, doesn’t it?

Reviewing the comparative statistics above, and as the lowest compensated goaltender on the list, it’s clear that Reimer is due for a raise. 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.

Consider for a moment: In a down 2013-2014 season — in which Reimer was “slighted” by his coach, yet again had his bell rung by a hit to the head, and played under the constant fear of getting the hook in favour of his Club’s newly acquired masked-savour — Reimer’s SV% of .911 was still superior to Mason’s career SV%. That Reimer maintained his play despite these distractions and remained a popular and positive teammate would also be evidence I’d lead in supporting his case. With all of that in mind, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Reimer awarded a contract somewhere between Scrivens’ and Mason’s for around $2.5 million for next season, allowing him to become a UFA the following off-season.

The other thing to note is that, as long as Reimer is awarded less than $3.5 million by the arbitrator — which I believe is a virtual certainty — the Toronto Maple Leafs will not have walk-away rights under Article 12.10, and will be forced to live with the one year contract. Clearly Reimer is going to walk after this contract if this proceeds to arbitration, so from an asset maximization perspective this is the worst case scenario for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who would clearly love to get a decent return for a traded Reimer, and are most likely to do so if he’s inked to a reasonable contract with term beyond next season.

From the Leafs perspective, then, the best thing the Club can do is try to negotiate a multi-year (two or three) agreement with Reimer with an AAV around $2.5-2.9 million. This kind of contract makes sense for a number of reasons; not the least of which is maximizing his value in a potential trade, but it also recognizes the fact that Jonathan Bernier has never played more than 55 games in an NHL season (and didn’t even make it through 55 games unscathed), and that James Reimer has demonstrated that he can be a starting goaltender in the NHL over a 20% greater sample size than Bernier with a comparable (.914 vs. .918) SV%. The other upside to signing such a contract (assuming Reimer was amenable to and willing to stay) is that it would give the Toronto Maple Leafs leverage over Jonathan Bernier in his up-coming contract negotiation in which he’ll certainly be seeking an increase on the $2.9 million AAV that he’s currently making on his expiring two-year deal. Without Reimer or another viable starting goaltender in place, the Leafs won’t have a leg to stand-on.

In other words, pick up the phone Mr. Nonis.

  • RandomScrub

    Thanks for the read Elliot. Really want to see him back and have a good split of games. Something like 50 Bernier 32 Reimer or 45 Bernier 37 Reimer.

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ DeclanK

    PLEASE KEEP CONVERSATIONS LIMITED TO THE TOPIC ONLY. 

    FOR GENERAL CHAT AND DISCUSSION, PLEASE GO HERE:
    http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2014/07/03/petri-kontiola-signs-with-leafs/

  • vinoa

    Does this mean that Reims will only be signing a 1 year contract with us or could we possibly sign him for longer given that it doesn’t go to arbitration?

  • https://twitter.com/ElliotSaccucci Elliot Saccucci

    RandomScrub My pleasure, as always.

  • Axle_Goalie

    We all love Riems…. BUT…. He always lets a garbage shot in… At least one. Every game. I know all the stats, I know we’re tough on goalies, BUT. He’s not a winner. We need winners. It’s harsh, I don’t think he sucks or anything. He’s just not a winner.

  • https://twitter.com/ElliotSaccucci Elliot Saccucci

    vinoa Can sign as long as we like (up to CBA max length) if we avoid arbitration.

  • Cameron19

    Axle_Goalie And you can magically tell who is and isn’t a winner?

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Axle_Goalie Untl he plays for a better team and wins.
    “Not a winner” statements are often ridiculous, definitely so in this case.

  • Axle_Goalie

    Cameron19 Axle_Goalie It sucks because I like him, but he had a chance to help this team, and blew it. I am one of the people who blames Rimer for part of our slip at the end of the year. He could have risen to the occasion and didn’t.

  • RandomScrub

    Axle_Goalie Cameron19 I blame our terrible defensive system and play before the goaltenders. Without them we are in the top 5 picks.

  • FRyan

    Cory Schindler was moved for some considerable pieces we will never get that for riemer even if his stats are better. If he is such a starter then why hasn’t he been traded yet ?

  • vinoa

    Elliot Saccucci At this point, is it safe to assume that Reims just wants a contract to get him to UFA status?

  • DARF24

    Wait till Bernier gets his bell rung, then we we’ll understand that james is not shit.

  • Darkside Beleafer

    Axle_Goalie Cameron19 To be fair, that could be said about the entire team.

  • https://twitter.com/ElliotSaccucci Elliot Saccucci

    vinoa Elliot Saccucci Can’t read his mind, but if he sees no future in Toronto (and why would he) then he’d probably like to be out of Toronto ASAP rather than languish through another back-up year that hurts the value of his next contract.

  • Axle_Goalie

    RandomScrub Axle_Goalie Cameron19 I agree fully. I just don’t think Riemer is good enough. I don’t think he’s solely responsible for anything, but everybody is so quick to blame everybody but him, he shares the blame.

  • vividcw

    Reimer knows he is worth more and he is doing what anyone would do
    leafs should give him 2-2.1 mil plus performace bonus’s

  • RandomScrub

    Sorry, one more thing to add. Really like that the MLHS team has a sports lawyer on board. These posts are extremely informative and really interesting to read.

    Cheers.

  • Axle_Goalie

    Alec Brownscombe Axle_Goalie I’m not saying he sucks, and I know that “Blame the Goalie” is a fools game, but I think he should share some of the criticism that we pour on this team.

  • Mind Bomb

    Thank you Elliot, just another messy contract loss for the leafs, sigh

  • Great Dane

    Elliot Saccucci  Excellent work and I do agree that getting Reimer signed for 3 years at 2.75 million would be smart move by the Leafs.

    First as you mentioned it gives leverage in the negotiations with Bernier and second that is reasonable contract with term that could be moved for a significant return when another suddenly need a starter or a 1B

  • vividcw

    Great Dane Elliot Saccucci  That or 3 years at 2.35 with ability to reach 2.75 with performance bonus;s

  • TomKusch

    Axle_Goalie Every game, except for those 11 shutouts right?

  • Axle_Goalie

    TomKusch Axle_Goalie Fair enough.

  • Cameron19

    Axle_Goalie Cameron19 There are 6 players on the ice. Not 1.

  • Cameron19

    Axle_Goalie RandomScrub Cameron19 lol, I can’t think of a more blamed player in the league except for maybe Phaneuf. Comments like that are a joke. Everyone and their cat blames Reimer non-stop.

  • Axle_Goalie

    Cameron19 Axle_Goalie Yet nobody ever criticizes Rimer, on this board.

  • Cameron19

    Axle_Goalie Cameron19 lol

  • RandomScrub

    Axle_Goalie Cameron19 Come on. Not even you should believe that.

  • Axle_Goalie

    RandomScrub Axle_Goalie Cameron19 HA! Nobody with a rep for being sane.

  • RandomScrub

    Axle_Goalie RandomScrub Cameron19 The game threads where Reimer let in a bad goal or we lost the game with him in the net were absolutely unbearable. Non stop influx of “Reimer sucks” comments.

  • Axle_Goalie

    RandomScrub Axle_Goalie Cameron19 I guess I won’t feel good until Cam or Alec says something bad about Riemer

  • Axle_Goalie

    RandomScrub Axle_Goalie Cameron19 Yeah from nutcases (myself included)

  • chandler

    Reimer has no value to other teams as a starter because he has the rebound control of a bouncy castle. Otherwise he is a great goalie, battles, makes 2nd and 3rd saves frequently, but one shot is always 2-3 saves for him cause he can’t control his rebounds.

  • reenergized

    DARF24 that already happened … but unfortunately James and Co shit the bed …

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Axle_Goalie RandomScrub Cameron19
    “James Reimer could not have fashioned a
    worse start after the controversy surrounding him and Carlyle coming
    off the last game. The 1-0 goal was a total stinker. Reimer had some
    traffic to contend with, but he was simply way too deep in his net.

    “What Remier hasn’t been bringing that Bernier has most nights is that
    calming influence amid an often chaotic Leafs defensive zone structure.
    Bernier’s ability to kill a play after the team starts scrambling and
    the ability for his defenders to predict where he’s directing pucks are
    things that help out a defence group that is often easily strewn out.
    The Leafs need great goaltending, and Bernier’s been great. Reimer
    hasn’t been at fault, but there’s a big difference between the two. The
    Leafs’ margin for error in net given their defensive play is very thin,
    and losing Bernier is right up there with Kessel in terms of importance
    to this team.”

    http://mapleleafshotstove.com/2014/03/20/game-review-game-71-lightning-5-vs-leafs-3/
    Critical when it’s appropriate, try to be objective overall.

  • Axle_Goalie

    Alec Brownscombe Axle_Goalie RandomScrub Cameron19 Appreciate that. Thanks!

  • Xxxxxnew

    Thanks Eliott. I’d lost tract of the arbitration rules after the last CBA, particularly the walk-away provisions.

  • NotInsane

    @chandler
    Forget the glove hand, rebound control is the knock against him around the league.

  • Mcost61

    Reimer needs to leave here for peace of mind. The fans will not cut him any slack now. I wish him the best whether he stays or goes. I love his personality, but he is a 1b and we can get cheaper backups

  • gjdevlin

    @chandler “he has the rebound control of a bouncy castle.” (dying..) :-)

  • deedrag

    NotInsane  If you watched the Stanley Cup Playoffs you would have noticed that NY goalteander was flopping around just as much and had atrocious rebound control but you don’t see NY fans going crazy now do you.

  • deedrag

    Thx for the informative write up Elliot

  • Waiting4LSC

    I question what Reim’s incentive would be to resign. Going to play for the same Coach, same system, largely same forward group.

  • Mattmark

    This is a cogent analysis, and it’s too bad Leafs can’t make it themselves without everyone having to be dragged through an arbitration process to arrive at the same conclusion.

    As for the debates on Reimer’s ability, he’s not Lundqvist but he’s competent.  His numbers are about as good as can be expected given that he plays behind a sieve-like defense.  On the other hand, that’s not likely to change this year while the new units are trying to sort themselves out.  Plus he was behind a terrific defense overseas this past spring and didn’t exactly run with the opportunity.

  • TMLfan_15

    Its time for Reimer to move on.  And its time for some fans to stop their love affair with every single Leaf player on the roster. Reimer isn’t good enough to be a number one  he has a huge heart, but his glove and rebound control are way below average.  We drafted 8th overall, this group wasn’t good enough.  Change is 100 percent necessary.

  • Mattmark

    Waiting4LSC …and a mix’n’match defense that is going to lack cohesion for awhile at least, if they achieve it this season at all.

  • Xxxxxnew

    Bernier faced the same thing in LA. Backed up Quick for three seasons. Moved on.

  • RandomScrub

    Xxxxxnew Played backup for 5 seasons however. Big difference.

  • TMLfan_15

    Xxxxxnew Difference is Reimer got his chance to be the Man.  He dropped the ball