As we’ve seen during their six-game winning streak, the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most dependent-on-goaltending teams in the NHL. If not for the outstanding play of Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer this season, the Leafs probably aren’t in a playoff position right now.
Statistically, Bernier has been the better of the two netminders, with a .927 save percentage in 36 games. But his partner has been almost as good, at .919 in 22 appearances.
Reimer, 25, is also a restricted free agent — a status that has led to questions for general manager Dave Nonis about next season.
“I haven’t thought that too far, but could I see a scenario where both goalies were back next season? Yes,” Nonis told the National Post yesterday. “We’ve gone this far because of our goaltending. Jon is on a bit of a roll, but James has been really good for us.”
Part of Nonis’s decision will depend on what he’s able to get for Reimer in a trade. The goalie market is a tough one to define. The Los Angeles Kings were only able to garner a third-round pick for Ben Scrivens. Granted, Reimer is two years younger and has more NHL experience than Scrivens.
As NP reporter Michael Traikos notes, “The Leafs, who still have control over Reimer, could re-sign him to a one-year deal at a number similar to what Bernier is making. But with Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf both getting significant raises next season and several key players heading for free agency (Jake Gardiner, Cody Franson, Dave Bolland), bringing back Reimer will not be easy.”
Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.
Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.
“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.
The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.
Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.
There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.
The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.
That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.
In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.
Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.