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
|Goaltender||Comparator(Regular Season)||GP||W||L||OT||GAA||SP (%)||SO||Current ContractYears & AAV|
|Last season||34||12||16||1||3.29||0.911||1||Expiring deal: 3 x $1.8 million|
|Cory Schneider||Career||143||71||41||20||2.12||0.925||12||3 x $4.0 million|
|Season deal was signed||33||20||8||1||1.96||0.937||3|
|Steve Mason||Career||300||133||119||34||2.79||0.907||23||2 x $2.9 million|
|Season deal was signed||61||33||18||7||2.5||0.917||4|
|Jonathan Bernier||Career||117||55||39||13||2.51||0.918||7||2 x $2.9 million|
|Season deal was signed||14||9||3||1||1.88||0.922||1|
|Kari Ramo||Career||88||28||36||14||3.03||0.902||2||2 x $2.75 million|
|Season deal was signed (KHL)||40||26||9||5||2||0.929||2|
|Ben Scrivens||Career||72||27||30||6||2.69||0.917||6||2 x $2.3 million|
|Season deal was signed||40||16||16||4||2.55||0.922||4|
|Braden Holtby||Career||105||60||31||8||2.6||0.919||11||2 x $1.85 million|
|Season deal was signed||36||23||12||1||2.58||0.92||4|
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.
Reimer's .914 SV% is not "close" to Bernier's .918 when you consider that the lowest save percentage of any starting goalie last year was .891 (Dubnyk) and the highest was .930 (Rask), that means that what looks like a meer 4% difference between the two goalies is actually a rather large 10% difference in save percentage. When it comes to saves thats the difference between wins and losses.
Best move of course would be to dump Reimer for whatever they can get for him. Keeping him would be a huge distraction. The last year made it very clear that Reimer can't handle pressure situations, and that Leafs have their #1 in Bernier.
I don't know. if leafs fix their defense I'd tend to feel safer with reimer in net then bernier. Everyone remembers his mistakes but surely there are ppl that remember his big nights and playoff pushes. I'm not a reimer fan by any means but with some more playing time I'm not convinced hes a career backup as so many believe him to be.
Question for Elliot: The consequences of trading Reimer now. is the other team than engaged in the arbitartion process with Reimer. Would you expect Reimer to work out a deal with a potential trading partner before said trade was completed? Overall, does it make it harder to trade him?
OK, several questions.
I'm glad Bernier went down for a bit and showed the flaws in Randy's system. The team couldn't settle for good goaltending, it needed Elite level goaltending and even with that they weren't very competitive. If Bernier didn't go down we might have limped into the playoffs, it would have masked all the teams problems in the eyes of management
The biggest mistake is mismanagement by Nonis and Rc with Reimer. If they were going to get Bernier then you trade Reimer right away so not to create friction. This was a total distraction the whole season.
As far as I know the jury is still out on Bernier, no? He's still played a too few games in the NHL. Personally I think he's a stud, but it's hard to tell with goalies.
Eliot I will assume this was in response to my personal request. I went to law school as well so I assume I get the colleague fee.
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.
@AndrewGalea He will not likely get another shot at #1 and i don't think he wants to be a backup. The decision is ultimately his.
@MaxwellHowe The other club would receive Reimer's rights subject to the impending arbitration hearing. He could only work out a deal with the Leaf's permission, and this probably wouldn't drastically interfere with the negotiation process involved in trading him.
Reims is an RFA, right? Wouldn't other teams be tampering by talking to him without Leafs permission?
@MaxwellHowe I thought you couldn't deal him until you sign him now or arbitration is finished.
@The_Polish_Cannon That + getting us Nylander
Might have been the biggest blessing in the disguise.
@deedrag If Bernier had flopped you would have called management's total reliance on an untested asset their 'biggest mistake.'
@deedrag They still didn't really know what they had in Bernier.
@MaxwellHowe You know what happens when you assume... :)
@Xxxxxnew Difference is Reimer got his chance to be the Man. He dropped the ball
@Xxxxxnew Played backup for 5 seasons however. Big difference.
Hockey DB shows him in the AHL until 20010-11. Then three years up with the Kings, the traded to the leafs.
@Xxxxxnew So how can you love the team? Reminds me of George C. Scott in The Hospital, saying of his hippie son, 'He preached universal love and despised everybody.'
@MaxwellHowe I should have gone to Dal, I chickened out on the move. Are you in practice still?
Not loving doesn't mean despising. I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of players in Leafs uniforms come and go for half a century who in the end didn't make any difference in winning a cup. Wendel's record as a leaf was over 500 losses and just over 300 wins. I'd rather the record had been reversed, even if it had mean Wendel had never been a leaf.
I still don't think it's selectively a Leafs thing. I think this happens when any team goes for very long stretches without playoff appearances. Finishing the season in early April just isn't a selling point.
Contract work here and there now, but after 15 years had enough of the full time gig.
Halifax is great. Move afoot to put a law school here in St. John's now. i Suppose there's a Newfie legal tradition thats being neglected.
@Xxxxxnew (?) Two is to four as three is to six. This is an analogy... its truth is not undermined by a claim that 'four doesn't mean six.'
Collective love for a team that manages to avoid any love for the individuals that comprise it? I'm not persuaded of the worth of this sentiment.
@Xxxxxnew Xxx: I hope you are right sir. I am jaundiced with Shanny, and need to see something positive from him to believe he will be good for our future. I've passed sceptical, am at jaundiced and wanting to accelerate to "don't like him period".
@Xxxxxnew Maybe their love for the team is the same.
I believe it is. But as an extreme example I know many older Leafs fans who would never exchange the 12 years Wendel played with the team for a decent contending team over that period that didn't include wendel.
@Xxxxxnew That is a bit perverse, I do agree.
Obviously I'm overstating my point. I just don't share the emotional attachment, especially for secondary players who come and go in every team's system.
@Xxxxxnew That is a weakness in this forum, sometimes to the point where you can't suggest a player has limitations without getting labeled a 'hater.'
All I meant, though, was that there would be a certain incoherence in trying to wed love for a team with indifference to the individuals on it. That kind of 'emotional attachment' doesn't sound like much fun, in the end.
It's the effect of time + incredibly poor results. I became a Leafs fan as a kid because they were the only team on TV. It was cemented when I went to the Billy Harris hockey school in Toronto one summer and all the instructors were Leafs from those cup winning teams. Because I was the youngest in my group and an uneven number of defencemen, I got to play on defence with Dave Keon for five days in a row.