It’s hard to believe that James Reimer seems primed to suit up with the Toronto Maple Leafs (and presumably back up Jonathan Bernier) next season, but that is the case.
And — as it turns out — that could be a very, very good thing.
Bernier’s often-stellar play was probably the main reason the Maple Leafs stayed in the playoff picture as long as they did in 2013-14, but the bottom line is that the 26-year-old goalie still only has 117 games of NHL experience under his belt, and fairly close to half (55) of those came last season. In fact, his previous career-high for appearances in a season was just 25.
Bernier’s career numbers — as scant as they are — indicate that he could be for real. Still, goalies are an unpredictable lot, and Reimer represents one of the most qualified backups (or even 1B goalies) you’ll come by next season.
Reimer, also 26, actually has a little bit of extra experience under his belt (140 career games played). Reimer’s career save percentage is .914, not all that far behind Bernier’s .918 mark. He even has two nice statistical seasons under his belt, (20-10-5 with a .921 save percentage in 2010-11 and 19-8-5 with a .924 save percentage in 2012-13).
While many other teams have made long-term commitments to goalies with mixed results, Bernier’s on an expiring deal and Reimer still has much to prove with just a two-year contract. Netminders probably don’t really enjoy fighting for reps and dealing with uncertain futures … but that doesn’t mean their NHL teams can’t benefit from that motivation.
Just ask Reimer, who told Sportsnet earlier this summer he believes the starting job is up for grabs.
Sportsnet: In your mind, are you Jonathan Bernier’s backup or are you coming into camp intent on winning the No. 1 job?
Reimer: Yeah, obviously the latter. I was told there’s a definite opportunity. That’s the mindset I’m coming in with, to really take advantage of the opportunity that’s been given and earn the No. 1 spot.
In other words, it might not have been the prettiest process, but the Maple Leafs might have backed into a great situation in net.