One of the “logical” things that is supposed to play out in Leafland this summer is the team trading James Reimer and officially running with Jonathan Bernier as their starter.
All things considered, how logical is it really?
How many teams want Reimer?
Here is a list of every team’s goalies going into next season:
|Chicago Blackhawks||Crawford/Raanta (RFA)|
|Columbus Blue Jackets||Bobrovsky/?|
|Detroit Red Wings||Howard/Mrazek|
|Los Angeles Kings||Quick/Jones|
|New Jersey Devils||Schneider/?|
|New York Islanders||Halak/Nilsson (RFA)|
|New York Rangers||Lundqvist/Talbot|
|San Jose Sharks*||Niemi/?|
|St Louis Blues||Elliott/Allen|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||Bishop/Lindback|
|Toronto Maple Leafs||Bernier/Reimer|
I have emboldened/marked with asterisk the potential fits for Reimer based on him wanting to be a starter; otherwise, most teams seem to be at least comfortable with their starter or tandem going into next season. You could also potentially include Carolina should they manage to get rid of Cam Ward, as has been rumoured.
There is also the possibility of a team loving Reimer and wanting to bring him in as premium insurance. A team like Pittsburgh, for example, would have a much better goaltending tandem in their fold with Reimer there to back up Fleury.
For now, though, we will assume that the five teams I highlighted – Calgary, San Jose, Vancouver, Washington, Winnipeg— comprise the best fits for Reimer.
What we have to consider next is the UFA goalie market. There are two goalies teams would bring in as a new number one right from the get-go: Ryan Miller and Jonas Hiller. Beyond those two, there are a host of 1A/1B-type goalies on the market including:
- Ilya Bryzgalov
- Ray Emery
- Tim Thomas
- Alex Stalock
- Thomas Greiss
- Justin Peters
- Chad Johnson
- Al Montoya
To say nothing of a few veterans that have been around the league for a while that should garner interest – Martin Brodeur, Evgeny Nabokov, and maybe even Jonas Gustavsson. There’s also various goalies in the AHL on whom a team might take a cheap flyer instead, such as the Marlies’ Drew McIntyre.
That’s a lot of goalies potentially hitting the market for roughly 12 available goaltending openings.
So, let’s first off set the record straight on the limited number of teams interested in Reimer. It will be hard to create a market for him, and there’s a real possibility nobody will bang Nonis’ door down for him, meaning the Leafs could be forcefully selling him off versus taking the best deal and making their team better via trade.
Setting the Market Price
When the Maple Leafs acquired Bernier, I amassed a list of comparable young goalie trades which included:
- Tampa acquired 24-year-old Anders Lindback, Kyle Wilson and a 7th for Sebastien Garon, two 2nd round picks and a 3rd.
- Tampa acquired Ben Bishop for Cory Conacher and a 4th.
- Colorado acquired 23-year-old Semyon Varlamov for the 11th overall pick and a conditional second round pick.
- St. Louis acquired 25-year-old Jaroslav Halak for first round prospect Lars Eller and third round prospect Ian Schultz.
We can now add:
- Leafs acquired 24 year old Bernier for Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, and a 2nd.
- Edmonton acquired 27 year old Ben Scrivens for a 3rd.
The returns for a goalie, obviously, are not formidable. If the Leafs are moving Reimer straight up, it is safe to assume they would get maybe a draft pick (in the round 2-4 range) and a depth player. Either that, or he’s a piece in a bigger deal to bring in a big name to the Leafs.
And it’s worth noting in any potential Reimer trade talk that he doesn’t have the pedigree of some of those other goalies who moved. Bernier was drafted in the first round and had a label as one of the best goalie prospects in the league, especially after throwing up a .936sv% in 58 AHL games one season. Jaro Halak carried the Habs on a magical playoff run. Ben Bishop is 6’7 and had the best SV% in the AHL one season at .928%. Pretty well all of those goalies were sold at a high-value point, too (not so much Bernier, but he was great for the Kings when Quick got hurt for anyone paying attention). Reimer has been consistently good, and was great when the Leafs made the playoffs, but the collapse always seems to cast a shadow on a series (and season) in which he faced nearly 40 shots per night. Come the New Year, Reimer had completely fallen out of favour and then struggled in his opportunity when Bernier got hurt. He has a career .914sv% and has had some injury problems.
They aren’t cashing in a winning lottery ticket here.
Is Bernier a full-fledged starter?
It shouldn’t need to be said, but Bernier isn’t exactly Henrik Lundqvist right now. He has played 117 games and started a career-high 55 games last season… Not coincidentally, he got hurt and missed time under the enhanced workload.
You can make the case that Bernier can be a starter from here on out, and that he is a great goalie, but that will all be on a hunch. The bottom line is that he has not played long enough and proven it. Here are his games played totals over his last four seasons since breaking into the NHL:
|Season||GP||% of Season|
That’s not enough to say, without question or hesitation, Bernier is a starter capable of playing a minimum of 55-60 games without fail. If he repeats his play of last season in 2014-15, we can begin to feel confident and comfortable with his ability give the Leafs 55-60 games every season.
Reimer and Bernier were both born in 1988 and their NHL career stat lines are as follows:
Essentially, Bernier is now at the stage where Reimer was last summer in terms of games played.
Until Reimer’s strong play in 2013, and Bernier’s last season, this organization was getting bad goaltending dating back to 2006. It would be quite something for them to now trade away a good goalie who is still young for a pick based on 55 good games from another good young goalie who is still very much in the process of establishing himself.
This summer, Reimer is an RFA and will need to be qualified at $1.6M. If he was signed to that number, the Leafs would be paying their goalies a combined $4.5M next season, which is less than at least 10 starters in the league make alone. They would be getting some of the best bang for their buck at that position in the league even if Reimer made a little more than $1.6M.
It is one thing if Nonis needs to include Reimer in a bigger deal to bring in a big name. But trading Reimer for a draft pick just doesn’t seem logical. Some will say Reimer can’t get along with Carlyle, or that he won’t want to be the backup, or that if they keep Reimer and don’t play him that much they will ruin his value completely and trade him for nothing; the reality is that, with so many holes on their roster, the last thing Leafs management should be doing is spending time trading Reimer for a pick they won’t see until at least three years from now and then diving into the UFA goalie market.
If we look at the chart of goalie tandems listed above, Bernier-Reimer is unquestionably one of the best ones there. Unless moving Reimer helps to bring in a desperately needed C or D upgrade, it is time for the Leafs to focus on upgrading those two positions however else they can while running this tandem again. That way goaltending truly is the least of the Leafs’ worries.