James Reimer has been recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs, and is expected to get the start in one of either Monday or Tuesday’s back-to-back games (versus Carolina and Tampa Bay, respectively) as the team heads into the All-Star break.
Reimer currently sports a 4-2-0 record with a 2.26 GAA and .933 SV% in 7 appearances with the NHL club.
On the surface, the move is rather simple. The Leafs need to win games, and it’s difficult to argue against Reimer having given them the best chance to win during his time with the club earlier in the month.Â With the team understandably wanting to manage the minutes of the oft-injured Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and Jonas Gustavsson struggling mightily under the weight of expectation, Reimer is a logical, sensible option to fill the gap.
Indeed, the party line is the team would have preferred to roll with three goaltenders all along, but injuries and the suspension to Mike Brown left the roster too thin up front to be able to do so.Â With Gustavsson a sure candidate to be snapped up on waivers if sent to the minors, Reimer became the victim of the numbers game.Â But now that Brown is back, and Sjostrom is close, the Leafs once again have enough bodies among the forwards to carry three netminders.
However, the move does lend itself to a few questions.Â What does this mean for Giguere? And what of Gustavsson’s future?
For Giguere, it’s rather simple.Â On a purely physical level, he can’t be relied upon for more than a couple games at a time.Â He looked good against both Anaheim and Washington this week, but the team would like to preserve his health by buffering such spurts of action with a couple games’ rest in between.
Gustavsson, on the other hand, is stuck between a rock and a hard place.Â His confidence appears to be shot, but with the team in desperate need of wins they cannot afford to simply let him play his way through it.Â Yet, if he doesn’t play, how can he work his way out of his funk?Â In an ideal world, the team would love to send him to the AHL to work out his issues. But they can’t do that without exposing him to the waiver wire, where he would surely be snapped up.
Update: a league source has confirmed to Alec that the Leafs could send Gustavsson to the Marlies on a 14-day conditioning loan per section 13.8 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.Â It would be fair to assume they are awaiting the results of Monday and Tuesday’s back-to-back games, leading into the All-Star Break, before making a decision one way or the other.
While the move to recall Reimer makes sense in the short-term, few observers would expect the Leafs to carry three goaltenders through the balance of the season. One has to wonder if this move perhpas signals a trade involving one of the three (most likely Giguere) may be on the horizon. In the meantime, it is difficult to fault Brian Burke and Ron Wilson for doing whatever they can to win games — even if it means playing a previously-unheralded AHL call-up (one who has, without a doubt, earned his opportunity) ahead of both their regular starter and a player once tagged as the future of the team’s netminding.
Looking forward to your thoughts as always,