Transcript below of Lou Lamoriello’s media address on the James Reimer trade.
I’m wondering if you can talk about what James brought to the table and the way he reacted to the trade today.
Lou Lamoriello: First of all, you know James better than I do in terms of the type of individual he is, being the longest Leaf among this present group here. I don’t have to speak to the type of person and character he has. And he was the same way on the phone. I don’t know anything else we can say about him other than quality things in terms of what he brought to the organization.
In terms of the deal coming together, was it something that had been ongoing, or did it come together in the last little while?
Lamoriello: I think the reasons for it are the most important. As far as timing goes, you never know when the timing comes about. But reason for this is, in the plan or the process, we need to take a look at our minor-league goaltenders who are playing extremely well. As you all know, we have the best team, in our opinion, in the American Hockey League and we’ve had the best tandem there. We have to take a look at Garret Sparks right now. How he performed when he did come up earlier – it’s something that’s the real thing. We’re going to have to find out about Bibeau. These are all things that are in the process and you can’t do it when you have two goaltenders here in the NHL. I can remember back many years ago when we had to find out about a goaltender in the minors in New Jersey and it seemed to work out pretty well. You never know unless they’re given the opportunity. The only way you get an opportunity is if there’s a space available for that. The timing is you go as far as you can until you have to do that, especially when you have a quality player and a quality person as we had in Reimer. This is the best that could come about at this point.
How important would a long run toward a Calder into June do to hasten the develop of your two minor-league goaltenders?
Lamoriello: First of all, it is never our intention to not give them a long run in the minor and the experience. But I think we have to give them experience up here, too. Quite frankly, our coaching staff and management has to find out how they will play. As you all know, the American league and the NHL – even though it’s the next step like AAA and major-league baseball – there’s quite a difference. You find out a little more. The shooters are at a different level, everything. So we have to find that out. It will be extremely important for them to be on a team that wins and wins and wins and wins.
Can you talk a little bit about Reimer and maybe the interest out there on him? Certainly San Jose couldn’t have been the only team approaching you.
Lamoriello: As far as interest goes, I think what you have to do is look at the goaltenders that are presently in the playoffs or close to the playoffs. There was not a real need for a goaltender in the opinion of the teams. If there was a need, there were cap restrictions, which is very common these days in the new world we work in with the CBA. So there are a lot of reasons why sometimes things are [the way they are], as far as interest goes at different positions and what commitments are. We internally made a decision that we had to give the opportunity to these young goalies to see what they could do. And Reimer was a free agent.
When you make a deal at the trade deadline with a UFA, how much do you consider the possibility that you could get them back again on July 1st.
Lamoriello: That’s always certainly at the back of your mind. I think that’s the best I could answer that. I’ve had the good fortunate to have players who were traded, not necessarily at the deadline, come back. So that’s not something that doesn’t happen in the NHL and I think it will continue to happen. I think, in this world today of where the cap is and whatever transpires with the salaries, it’s going to be more prevalent than it has in the past.
What would you say to Maple Leafs fans in terms of where you feel you are in the process and how the organization is looking at the moves of late?
Lamoriello: I think whenever you have a plan you’ll always go accordingly, as difficult as it is sometimes. Timing, sometimes, is on your side. Sometimes timing isn’t on your side. What we have done is try to acquire pieces that can help us not only to gain young prospects but also pieces that gain players at the right time when that need is decided. You never know when that is. What Mike and his staff have done with the team, we can see exactly the competitiveness we have each and every night no matter who is in that lineup, so it allows you to make some of these decisions because we know that we are going to be able to play with anybody on any given night. These decisions are made for today and tomorrow, or you can reverse that for tomorrow and today because today we are finding out about people that we have in our organization – whether they can do the job or not do the job. We’re also preparing for the future by acquiring picks or acquiring assets. Whatever way you want to look at it.
Would you mind talking about the new players who are coming from San Jose?
Lamoriello: Two players who certainly have NHL experience and certainly have played in the minors. We’ve all certainly seen them. As far as what they will bring to the NHL team, I don’t think at this given point they’ll be here. Right now, we’re going to get Garret Sparks in here to see just how he handles the situation. He will be in Montreal tonight as the backup. Once we get the players here, we’ll find out more about them in practice as to what they can bring and what they can’t bring.
I know you don’t know what Stalock or Smith will be at the NHL level yet, but what have you seen from Stalock as an AHL goaltender?
Lamoriello: Well there’s no question he’s handled the American league as one of the better goalies in the league. We certainly know him from his earlier days. Until you get them in front of you, until you put them in the environment, you never know. We’re going to have open eyes with this and give him the opportunity to see what he can do and then make decisions going forward. But I think the focus will be on our youth as far as what they can do – who we are very high on. We have to give them an opportunity.
In mentioning your plan with these draft picks down the road, is there a maximum in terms of how many players you’d want to draft in a single draft?
Lamoriello: This draft pick is in 2018, so in other words I think we have a lot of picks right now. I think you have to be careful. It’s an excellent question because you can only sign so many players and develop them because you have to stay within the 50-man roster. I think if you try to keep the contracts where they’re at, and we actually made a transaction earlier in the year because we were at 50 contracts and we made a transaction to reduce that. Yes, the answer to your question is there are just so many picks and you have to be careful with who you handle it and when you sign them because the clock starts ticking. Unless they’re in junior, they count on your list.