First reported by Damien Cox of The Toronto Star, the Toronto Maple Leafs have secured rookie goaltender James Reimer's services for the next couple seasons. Nothing has been made official yet (the full process can take days), but early reports suggest a deal similar to that of Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is what has been agreed upon between the two camps.
Quick signed a three-year, $5.4 million deal last offseason, when he was in a similar situation to Reimer's.
The deal can be considered a significant feat for Brian Burke and co. Reimer was spectacular last season, being noted as one of the primary reasons made the playoff push they did. And if Reimer turns out to be half the goalie Quick was last season, then they are cruising.
The short, low-cost deal also doesn't make much of a dent into the team's available cap either, still allowing the Leafs to make serious runs at a top-line center, through trade or free agency.
He was called up in early-December to backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson due to a Jean-Sebastien Giguere injury. However, after some poor play by Gustavsson and the Leafs in shambles at the time, he got his first look against the Atlanta Thrashers on December 20. After continuous inconsistent play from "The Monster," Reimer received his first start on January 1 against division rival, the Ottawa Senators.
He stopped 32 shots for a 5-1 win and never looked back, going on to post a 20-10-5 record, with a 2.60/.921 stat line to go with three shutouts. In fact, Reimer had so much success as a Leaf, he inspired nicknames like "Optimus-Reim" and "The Reiminister of Defense."
He showed the Leafs brass a lot in only half a season, but obviously enough to receive such a lucrative extension. One can argue that third year could be a problem if Reimer doesn't pan out, but in reality, he'd have to fall pretty far for someone to not even justify employing him as a backup goaltender, especially at $1.8 million.
Somebody that be largely credited for helping Reimer develop so quickly this season is Giguere. The veteran goaltender worked immensely with Reimer even before he was first called up and obviously it's paid off.
Now, all of "Optimus-Reim's" success can't be credited to Giguere, but he certainly played a large part, because of course there was Reimer's tremendous work ethic and confidence, and we can't forget Francois Allaire.
When called up, Reimer seemed to propel the entire Leafs team to play better, and not only because of his superior play compared to Gustavsson and Giguere. He injected a stream of confidence into the team on and off the ice.
The team knew they could pinch in the offensive zone the odd time, and they can focus on their game because quite frankly, they didn't have the thought of their goaltender losing the game for them in the back of their minds (though they would never admit it, it was blatantly obvious).
When Gustavsson or Giguere were in net, they often collapsed in front of the crease, allowing all five opposing players to close in on the goal. With Reimer, they played more of a box game, keeping and allowing more shots, just all from the outside.
All in all, in term and value, the Leafs accomplished a great amount in this contract. Goalies don't just have the success Reimer did and then completely fall off the face of the earth a couple months later. At worst, he's a capable backup goaltender for the last year or two of his contract, and still under $2 million.