Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Habs Lack Of Goalie Depth A Lesson To Leafs

The Montreal Canadiens are in all sorts of trouble, down 2-0 against the Rangers and heading to New York. A big part of the reason many don’t expect the Canadiens to be able to rally, is because Carey Price is gone for the rest of the series.

The NHL is slowly moving into an age where you need two quality goaltenders and the Canadiens simply aren’t at that point. Dustin Tokarski stepped between the pipes for the Canadiens and played well, but not to the level Price had played so far these playoffs. What other choice did they have though? Peter Budaj was the next option, and he has a career .843 sv% in the playoffs, albeit in only seven games played. The next option after that would have been Devan Dubnyk, who has seemingly lost all confidence and may never play in the NHL again.

So the Habs will have to go with Tokarski and Budaj if they’re going to make it any further. They’re not alone of course, where would the Rangers be if Lundqvist had been hurt? Could Cam Talbot carry the load? If Corey Crawford was hurt, the Blackhawks would turn to rookie Antti Raanta, who has 25 career NHL games played. The Kings would be in the same spot if Jonathan Quick was injured, turning to rookie Martin Jones and his 19 NHL games worth of experience.

Suffice to say none of these teams can expect to go far if their star goalie was hurt in the first game of the playoffs.

Which begs the question, why are the Toronto Maple Leafs so set on trading James Reimer? While Jonathan Bernier was outstanding this season, and Reimer seemed to falter late, Reimer is a career .914 sv% goalie in 140 career games. If you believe Bernier is as good as his career sv% of .918 over 117 games then you must too believe that Reimer is only a step or two behind him.

While it’s true that no team in recent memory has succeeded with goalies list as 1 and 1a, Price stands as a stark reminder why carrying two capable goalies is important. Keeping Reimer would also allow a fallback for if Bernier falters, like Reimer did this year.

The argument against it is that Reimer holds trade value, and while that’s true, his value may be at an all time low.

Compounding that, Brian Elliott resigning in St. Louis, where Jake Allen will back him up, puts Ryan Miller available on the free agent front. He joins Jonas Hiller, Jaroslav Halak, Carter Hutton, Evgeni Nabokov, Tim Thomas, Martin Brodeur, Devan Dubnyk, Ray Emery, Al Montoya, Chad Johnson, Jonas Gustavsson, Thomas Greiss, Alex Stalock, Just Peters, Ilya Bryzgalov, J.S. Gigeure and others as available goalies to either be starters or backups. That’s a lot of goalies.

What’s worse, how many teams are even looking for a starting goalie, something Reimer believes he can be? The Flames, Jets, Capitals and Islanders definitely are. Buffalo and Vancouver may be looking for starters, but they also may not.

So there are maybe six starters jobs open for next year in the entire NHL. If Halak signs in New York, there’d be only five. Five to split between all those goalies.

While Miller and Hiller are likely going to sign big money contracts, the majority of those goalies can be had fairly cheap, which takes away another advantage to bringing in Reimer.

While Reimer is likely better than the majority of them, why would a team like the Winnipeg Jets be expected to give up much for Reimer, when they can sign a Bryzgalov for similar money and not lose an asset? The simple answer is, they shouldn’t.

So if Reimer isn’t bringing anything sizable back in a trade, why are the Leafs looking to move him? If they truly believe they can compete for a playoff spot next year, having a capable backup may be the key.

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Tags: James Reimer Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Tim Bayer

    Great piece. I agree, keeping Reimer would be the ideal scenario, especially since Bernier just had sports hernia surgery. The problem is, I’m not sure he would even want to stay, and all it take is one of those teams you mentioned to show interest in having him as their starter. Some team might even throw an offer sheet at him.

    • Andrew Millichamp

      While I agree that Reimer wants out and wants a chance to prove he can be a starter, he is an RFA so his options are limited. I think the Leafs would love it if he signed an offer sheet, as Reimer would likely fall into a second round pick, which is probably the height of what you’d get for him anyways. Depending on what the numbers are, it may even be a first and a third, which no team in their right mind would give up for Reimer. Also in the salary cap era only one offer sheet wasn’t matched, so if it’s a low one the Leafs are likely to match.

  • A13276

    Reasons not to keep Reimer is that he sulked all year, he didn’t come through when he was needed after Bernier went down and let in some awful goals, the team doesn’t think they can win with him, he thinks he’s a Number 1 goalie. Get rid of him – if you get anything for him it’s gravy. Sign a veteran goalie who isn’t looking for glory but takes pride in his craft.

  • Stan Smith

    This article could have been titled the other way around. The Habs could have learned from the Leafs. The fact is when Bernier got hurt Reimer couldn’t step in and do the job. If Bernier doesn’t get hurt the Leafs make the playoffs plain and simple.

    It was obvious when the Leafs acquired Bernier they did not have the confidence Reimer could get the job done. As the season went I think not only did Carlyle lose confidence in him but the team did as well. As far as pros and cons in keeping Reimer. Cons: he has issues that need to be addressed and seems to be reluctant to change. He could not get the job done when Bernier got hurt. The qualifying offer to keep him is $1.6 Million which is a bit steep. Pros: His two best performances near the end of the season were when he came off the bench in the two games Bernier got hurt. His poor play the last half of this season means they might not get much for him in a deal anyway.

    I think the best move might be to not qualify him and see what offer he gets on the open market. The end result might be that he remains on the team at a reduced pay. If he signs elsewhere, signing a veteran back up for less money, that doesn’t mind playing 20 – 25 games or giving Drew MacIntyre a shot might be the way to go.


    Reimer is the best goalie the leafs have ever had in the history of their team, and that’s pure proven facts! If that doesn’t tell you something I don’t know what will. Reimer is fully capable of taking the lead of Bernier’s backup and the starting role, the only issue was he got hated on and bashed on by everyone around him and that made him feel terrible and question himself, and the way he played! Picture yourself going to start a game in net and no one even cares about you and every eye is on you thinking negative thoughts towards you, its not a good feeling at all! He can train hard this summer, find new techniques and be set and focused to go in the 2014-15 season!

  • jimithy

    Reimer has proven this season, last season, and the season before, that he is incapable of delivering the goods when needed. What more proof is there than not being in the playoffs. Ten full seasons and no playoffs! Mediocrity always has a home in T.O. Why? Because nobody wants to roll up their sleeves and do anything. Shanahan will make millions, fail, then go live in Muskoka, then the next saviour will come and…… well you get the picture. This coming season there will be a couple of new faces donning the blue white and yikes! , but if past behavior is a prediction of future behavior, the blue white and yikes! will be up to their old tricks.

    • Stan Smith

      I disagree with Reimer not delivering the goods last season. He was the number one reason they made the playoffs and took the Bruins to game 7. I do agree that he did not do the job when required to once Bernier got hurt this season.

      • jimithy

        He may have taken them there up until 6 games and 50 minutes. But in 10 minutes all that came to an end. Plus, it must not be forgotten that #41 was instrumental in initiating the collapse, and the coach enabled it. Both should be sent to hockey hell.

        • Stan Smith

          Actually it was a total team effort. They all reverted to what I call Ron Wilson defence in the last three minutes of the game, trying to poke check along the boards instead of taking the body and everybody playing goaltender when the other team had the puck. Chara left standing unmolested in front of the net on the tying goal is not Reimer’s fault. But it’s funny how things are remembered. the 4 – 2 or 4 -3 goals don’t matter. If the Bruin’s don’t get that goal at 19.09 or of Lupul scores on his chances in overtime the leafs are great and past year becomes totally different.

          • jimithy

            This is the nexus -’if’-. If this happened then this would have happened and if that had not happened then this and that would have happened. But if this did happen, which it did, then that must have happened, which it did, but this is only this if that is not that. Again, I’m not trying to be cute, but according to my calculations the one and only problem with this team is their ‘dedicated quietly enduring patiently hoping wishing that someday everything is going to be alright numbskull fans’, who, expect everyone else to do what they are supposed to do, but are really to indifferent to do themselves. Just buying a ticket is leaving much to be desired. And by the way the writer of this article has no idea what he’s talking about. Montreal has three, count ‘em three goalies who can start any game at any time against any team. Toronto has almost one . Toronto scouting is horrendous, but they are never held accountable.

          • Stan Smith

            My point was what happened in last years playoffs was not an “epic” collapse and surely wasn’t Reimer’s or Kulemin’s fault, at least not alone. It was one goal scored with 51 seconds to go in regulation time and another one in overtime, by the eventual Stanley Cup finalists. Everyone seems to forget no one thought they had any right to be in that position at that point in time anyway. They came back from being down 3 games to 1 and played great hockey to get there. Then they stopped playing the type of hockey that got them to that point plain and simple.

            The core they have right now is not that bad. Like him or not Brian Burke did a lot to build a base that is going to allow the Leafs to get back to respectability. You have to remember that before the Cap they didn’t need a farm club. They could just buy the players they needed. They have had to start from the ground floor up to build a whole farm system and to direct their scouting to players not in the NHL yet instead of just scouting other teams to fill their needs.

            They were the team least prepared for the salary cap and they have paid for it the past decade. There is not going to be any “quick fix” to what ails them. It is going to be one deal at a time and one draft pick at a time. Of those deals and picks, some are going to work out and others aren’t.