Fresh off of signing restricted free agent (RFA) Cody Franson a few days ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs were also able to avoid arbitration with goaltender James Reimer by signing him to a 2-year, $4.6 million deal.
The 26-year-old Manitoba native struggled in the latter part of the 2012-13 season, after enjoying success for his reputation as a clutch keeper in the early part of the season and the 2013 playoffs. At the beginning of last season, it was seen as if the Maple Leafs were going to have a two-headed monster in net (similar to Vancouver the past few years) with Reimer and the newly-acquired Jonathan Bernier. Despite great stats to start the season for Reimer, Bernier eventually ran away with the starting job after playing remarkably in front of shaky defence. When Bernier got injured for a few games near the end of the season, it seemed like Reimer lost a lot of confidence and underperformed (although the Maple Leafs defence magnified his woes).
I think this is another bargain deal for the Maple Leafs. They signed Franson, arguably their best defenceman to only a $3.3 million contract, and now they will sign Reimer, who is viewed as a borderline starter, to a deal worth about $2.3 million a season.
However, many people see this move by James Reimer as a way to make himself available as an unrestricted free agent (UFA) in two year’s time. It is likely that the Maple Leafs were trying to shop Reimer, but did not see a good return coming because of the very little need in the NHL for a starting goalie. (ask Martin Brodeur). By signing a short-term deal, Reimer may be able to finally get a larger contract as a UFA once the market changes.
Don Cherry and many other people like myself believe that James Reimer is NHL starting-goalie-material, and it will be tough for him to endure two more years as a backup in Toronto. Hopefully he will become a true starter some day.