Brian Burke

Brian Burke warns James Reimer about instant success, won’t chase Steven Stamkos

Despite “missing” the first day of free agency to some criticism, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has been making some nice moves this off-season. It’s almost like the old, savvy Burkie is back after making some big, questionable investments via trades for Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Burke re-signed Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak to cap-friendly deals and fleeced teams for two promising defenseman (John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson). It’s unclear if the Tim Connolly gamble will pay off, but it seems like a lower risk move than the Brad Richards mortgage many were clamoring for.

That being said, there are no guarantees that these subtler moves will push the Maple Leafs far enough to make a true playoff bid. Burke addressed two questions that might be essential to that process today.

1. Will James Reimer be a one-hit wonder?

It seemed like Toronto suddenly resembled an actual playoff team once Reimer took the reins as the team’s interim No. 1 goalie. Reimer earned 20 wins, a sterling .921 save percentage, 2.60 GAA and even became a meme generator when ingenious Maple Leafs bloggers made an ode to him via a parody of that odious “Friday” song.

Of course, the NHL landscape is littered with the broken dreams of guys who enjoyed all-too-brief runs of goalie stardom. The Columbus Blue Jackets are actively praying that such a fate isn’t in the works for their should-be franchise goalie Steve Mason. Burke brought that subject up to Reimer, asking the young goalie to Google two infamous names in the one-hit wonder tradition: Jim Carey and Steve Penny. Burke simply asked Reimer not to turn into them.

Too bad being an NHL-level goalie isn’t as easy as using a search engine, though.

2. Will Burke go after Steven Stamkos with an offer sheet?

Speaking of not turning into something you’d rather avoid, there is the question that Burke might mortgage some of his team’s future to send an offer sheet to Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty. Burke notoriously fumed when then-Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe poached Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks a few years back. He somewhat amusingly avoided snatching Phil Kessel via an offer sheet by sending a bit more than he would have given up for the contract in a trade to the Boston Bruins. (That package netted the Bruins Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton among other assets.)

So will Burke defy his former stance for the sake of swinging for a personnel home run? While Burke lamented losing out on Brad Richards because the team didn’t front-load the deal enough, he denied the urge to send an offer sheet to one of those stars.

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Even so, Burke said he thinks that the team has improved and I’m inclined to agree. It’s unclear if Burke took a deep breath and decided to do things his way (rather than bowing to ownership and/or public pressures to make a huge, risky move again), but the results have been promising so far. The Maple Leafs still are a bit lacking in flat-out elite talent, but they’re finally moving in the right direction this off-season. Some might actually listen to the idea that the Leafs are a genuine contender for a playoff spot.

That probably sounds even better to a Leafs fans’ ears than a rousing rendition of “Reimer.”

Toronto re-signs goalie James Reimer to three-year, $5.4 million deal

James Reimer
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Last year’s biggest surprise in Toronto was that the Leafs weren’t a terrible team. Much of that was thanks to the rise of goaltender James Reimer. Reimer seized the starting role after Jean-Sebastien Giguere proved to be mostly ineffective and Jonas Gustavsson was both ineffective and often injured. With Reimer proving himself worthy, the Leafs rewarded the impending restricted free agent with a three-year $5.4 million contract extension.

Leafs GM Brian Burke made the right move in locking up Reimer but giving him such a deal works out nicely for both sides. If he plays well, the Leafs get a bargain and Reimer makes good money to be a hero in Toronto. If he struggles, then the Leafs can squirrel him away in the minor leagues without much pain delivered to the salary cap. With a hit of $1.8 million per season, that’s not too bad.

Reimer did great in sporting a 20-10-5 record with a 2.60 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Without Reimer, the Leafs likely sputter to a bottom five finish in the league and hand the Boston Bruins yet another extreme lottery draft selection in doing so. Reimer’s play kept the Leafs in the talk for the playoffs until the final week of the season and has given Leafs fans hope that they’ve got their goalie of the future.

The Leafs will now head into next season with the goalie rotation set to be Reimer as the starter and Gustavsson as the backup. Failing that, young guys like Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas will be waiting in the wings in the AHL. Some may be critical of the Leafs for a lot of things, but one area where they’re all set at throughout the organization is in goal. Here’s to hoping that “Optimus Reim” can build on his legend in Toronto.

Now that he’s being paid like a top goalie he’s going to have to make sure that his first season wasn’t an aberration

Save of the Night – James Reimer dives to rob Johansson (April 5)

Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer makes a save during their NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals in Toronto

Aside from the occasional night off – or the even less common instance when a save or goal isn’t deemed worthy – the gang at PHT will decide which tally or stop is the best of any given night. Once those two winners are determined, we’ll share our reasoning (and most importantly, the video clip for each) in posts for your viewing pleasure.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Toronto Maple Leafs’ goaltender James Reimer lately. But if he keeps making saves like these, then he may make believers out of even the most jaded hockey fan. With the game (and at the time, the season) on the line, Reimer played yet another fantastic game to give the Leafs a chance to win. They ended up falling in a shootout and were eliminated from playoff contention when the Sabres beat the Lightning, but there’s no questioning that Reimer did his part. If you don’t believe us, maybe it would be best to ask Marcus Johansson after Reimer’s spectacular save in the third period.

James Reimer named NHL’s Rookie of the Month for March

James Reimer
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Maybe he came along a little too late to lead his team to the playoffs, but the NHL named Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer the Rookie of the Month for March.

Reimer went 9-4-1 with a 2.87 GAA, 91.3 save percentage and one shutout in March, according to the league. Overall, Reimer is 19-8-4 with an even better 92.2 save percentage, 2.55 GAA and three shutouts during the 2010-11 season.

It’ll be interesting to see if Reimer can make good on a nice half-season of work, but the Maple Leafs finally have a young goalie whom they can attach their hopes to going forward.

He beat out goalies Corey Crawford and Braden Holtby along with forwards Jeff Skinner, Tyler Ennis and Michael Grabner for the award.

Here is the list of rookie of the month winners during this season, from an NHL press release.

Reimer joins previous Rookie of the Month winners Michal Neuvirth of the Washington Capitals (October), Sergei Bobrovsky of the Philadelphia Flyers (November), Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks (December), Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes (January) and Michael Grabner of the New York Islanders (February).

Save of the Night – James Reimer (March 19)

Boston Bruins v Toronto Maple Leafs
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Aside from the occasional night off – or the even less common instance when a save or goal isn’t deemed worthy – the gang at PHT will decide which tally or stop is the best of any given night. Once those two winners are determined, we’ll share our reasoning (and most importantly, the video clip for each) in posts for your viewing pleasure.

Much like the choice to make Tyler Ennis the March 19th Goal of the Night winner, there were a lot of great saves – and goalie performances – to choose from Saturday. Pekka Rinne made some nice stops on his way to a victory against the Detroit Red Wings while Mathieu Garon turned away the Minnesota Wild in overtime.

Ultimately, it came down to James Reimer. The Toronto Maple Leafs rookie netminder made an outstanding save on Tyler Seguin, which is almost symbolic since Reimer’s having a superior first year to Seguin in many ways.