Why the Flames should sign James Reimer

With the Maple Leafs acquiring Freddy Andersen, the only team in the NHL currently looking for a starter is the Calgary Flames. That means Brad Treliving has a lot of potential dance partners in the goalie trade market, from Pittsburgh to Tampa, Dallas, Detroit, St. Louis and Colorado. Already the Flames have been linked in rumours to guys like MA Fleury, Ben Bishop and Semyon Varlamov.

With the relatively stagnant cap and an impending expansion draft, clubs with too much money invested in the crease or too many goalies to protect will be looking to move one of their guys for a return. That puts Calgary in the enviable position of simply waiting for the most palatable trade offer to surface. 

However, a trade may nevertheless not be the optimal move for Calgary. Many of the guys in question come with some kind of risk. And no matter how good the deal, a trade will cost the Flames some assets. That’s why signing James Reimer might just make the most sense.

5 Reasons to Sign Reimer

1.) The Flames can control the contract

This is especially important for Calgary right now. Not only do they face a significant cap crunch this year, but ideally they want a contract that is just the right length – long enough to give Jon Gillies time to find his legs in the AHL, but not so long that the deal will become problematic if Gillies challenges for the starter’s role in a couple of years. 

By signing Reimer, the Flames can tailor the contract to their needs whereas guys like, say, Fleury and Bishop come with significant contractual price and risk. To start, both are almost $6M each. Fleury’s deal only has three seasons left, but he’ll turn 35 in the final season. There’s a significant chance his performance falls off before then. 

Bishop, on the other hand, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent next summer and in line for a big raise. If the Flames can’t re-sign him, they’ll be giving up assets for a one-year rental. 

Many of the other options come with similar issues, with the lone exception being Brian Elliott (who won’t come cheap as a result).

2.) Reimer should be relatively cheap

After having battled as a 1B option in Toronto for years, Reimer likely wants a shot at being a bonafide NHL starter. His best (only) opportunity would be in Calgary this year, giving the Flames a big advantage in negotiations. This is why Calgary should be able to exercise significant control over the length and amount of the deal. With saturated goalie market and very little demand, Reimer will be motivated to take a “prove it” deal rather than jockey for a pay day. 

3.) Reimer’s results are above average

In fact, the erstwhile Leaf goalie’s even strength save rate isn’t much different than many of the better options available. For instance, over the last three seasons, Reimer finished with a .9252 ES SV%. Andersen, whom many (including myself) considered the Flames’ ideal target, finished with a .9254 ES SV%. And, if we isolate just last year, Reimer had the superior all around performance:

Dashboard 1-15

Here’s how Reimer compares to the other quality trade targets on the market currently. This table is for 5on5 SV% over the last three seasons (via Corsica Hockey): 

ReimerCompare

Bishop and Elliott pull away a bit, but there’s not much to separate Reimer from either Fleury or Varlamov. To put these numbers in further context, Jonas Hiller finished with a .920 ES SV% and Karri Ramo with a .918 ES SV% over the same period. None of the other lesser trade options, from Mike Smith to Jimmy Howard, break the .925 barrier since 2013. 

4.) Reimer is “free”

This is the most obvious one – James Reimer will only cost whatever he signs his contract for. All the other guys will cost money and assets. The Penguins and Lightning might get increasingly desperate to move Fleury or Bishop as time goes on, but they’ll never simply give either player away. Each guy is going to cost some package of picks, prospects or players to obtain. 

Of course, a club like Dallas or Detroit might be motivated to sell one of their unwanted guys for pennies on the dollar… but there’s a reason for that. At this point the Flames can hold out for the best the market has to offer. Or Reimer, for the reasons listed here.

5.) Reimer is at a Good Age

At 28 years old, Reimer is still in the meaty part of the typical goalie career arc. That actually makes him younger than every other guy on the trade market save Varlamov (they’re the same age). This lessens the risk of a big dip in performance, even if the Flames sign him to a multi-year deal.

Conclusion

James Reimer represents an intriguing option for the Flames: they can sign him to a nearly optimal contract. He has above average results that are comparable to many of the trade targets available and he’s the right age. 

The only knock against Reimer is his lack of true starter experience. His career high in games played so far is just 40, which he managed this season between the Leafs and Sharks. As such, we can’t be certain he can sustain a quality performance over a full season. Of course, his lack of a true “starter’s resume” is also why Reimer will be available this summer for a relatively low number.

Nevertheless, Reimer is an excellent option for Treliving to keep in his back pocket. While he should continue to investigate the possibility of acquiring one of Fleury, Bishop or Elliott, Reimer’s presence ensures the Flames don’t need to panic or out of desperation in negotiations.

  • everton fc

    He a class guy. He didn’t crack up in Toronto, like many others before him. He proved in San Jose he can get the job done.

    It all comes down to cost… But I’ve always like Reimer, though he does have what I thought was a recurring/nagging groin issue.

  • CutterMcAwesome

    Ive been waiting for someone to write this article. It makes the most sense for the present and the future. His cap hit wont be awful and the guy can stop a puck. He’s the perfect stop gap before gillies is ready.

  • beloch

    The impending expansion really has created a buyer’s market for goalies this summer. The same factors that make the Flames Reimer’s best shot at a starter’s job also make the Flames the best shot for a lot of teams to unload a goalie they can’t protect for a price better than nothing.

    Additionally, for as long as Reimer remains a UFA, Treliving is going to have a great walkaway option and, as a result, a huge edge in negotiations for any sort of goalie trade.

    So, if you’re Treliving, it makes sense to hold off on signing Reimer so you can explore your trade options. Nobody’s going to be getting a first rounder for a goalie this summer!

      • beloch

        Toronto made that trade before the expansion rules were officially announced. Even so, I think the Leafs got fleeced. Don’t get me wrong. Andersen is a great goalie. However, even a late first-round pick is too much to pay in this market. That was one bidding war Treliving was wise to lose.

  • Parker

    This article has makes me feel a lot better about the prospect of signing Reimer. It makes sense and he is a western Canada guy who played junior in Red Deer so would probably like the idea of playing closer to home. The knock is he hasn’t played more than 40 games. You can say that about every goalie at one point in time. He just hasn’t been given the opportunity. Give him a chance to start 60 games and you might be pleasantly surprised!

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Have you already forgotten the Sutter era where Western Canadian players were given first dibs? It did not work out well for the Flames or their farm system.

      • Greatsave

        Except signing Reimer isn’t about “giving prairie kids first dibs”. It’s about the Flames giving a solid veteran performer a chance to step up to the next level. It just so happens that Reimer is from Manitoba, played in Red Deer, so it may work in our favour when it comes to negotiating terms or trying to sell him on the idea of joining the Flames. It’s *not* choosing him over the other options based on his geographical origins or ties.

  • Backburner

    He’s in his prime.. the Flames would get the most production out of him over the next three seasons.

    I say 4 mill X 4 years would be a good ball park.

    • BlueMoonNigel

      Too long!

      If either Ortio or Gillis proves a winner a year or two, you have JR as a $4M backup.

      If the Flames really have hand on Reimer and Reimer wants to be a starter, presumably the Flames can get him short term and at an affordable price, say 2 years at $3-3.5M/yr.

  • Greatsave

    I love the idea of signing Reimer, but I can’t agree with the above suggestions of 4-year deals.

    If we sign Reimer, it has to be done with Reimer being the starter in mind, maybe a 50-55 game guy with Ortio taking on the rest for development purposes. One year, maximum two, should be enough for him to show us whether he’s got what it takes. Two years should also hopefully allow us to transition to Ortio-Gillies, if Reimer falters as the starter.

    If we sign him to a 4-year, $16m+ deal, and he shows that he tops out at 35-40 games, or is usurped by one or both of Ortio/Gillies, that’s a $4m+ AAV for a backup goalie. You better cross your fingers that he’s tradeable at that point.

    Given that no other team in the league is looking for a starter, Reimer has few options if he wants to go somewhere to prove himself as one. That gives us leverage to trim down on term. I have no problem with a 1-year, $4.5-5m deal, or a 2-year, $8m deal. Anything longer and the AAV would have to be further scaled down, not up.

  • freethe flames

    If Jones is paid $3m a year for 3 years how can anyone justify paying his back up significantly more. It’s a buyers market via UFA this year.(for goalies) If he wants a chance to become an NHL starter this is his best option. He could always take a back up spot or go to the KHL. Unfortunately for him there is not a bidding war. I have said before the max I would pay him was $3.75 but with the number of teams competing for him down I would $3m for 3 years and then move Ortio for a deal to get Kuemper and have a 1a/1b tandem. Kuemper is a RFA with arbitration rights but not much leverage. $2m for 3 years. Expose whoever struggles to the expansion draft.

    • Danomitee

      Kuemper is kind of in the same situation as Jones was last year, so he’d be looking to command fairly similar money as both Jones and Reimer. So If you want them both, then you’re looking at another 7 million dollar goalie tandem. I think the better option is Reimer or Kuemper and Ortio, then we’re talking 4 mil max for a couple years, however Reimer to me is more proven Kuemper just has a higher upside.

  • Hockeyfan

    Fleury was always my 1st choice but with pens stalling Reimer is next best thing. If we can get him at 3.5mil. for 3 years that would be great. He would be great mentor as well for ortio. man would it be great if Dubois fell in our laps but why would Oil draft for need.

  • Backlund Best

    If Gillies is eligible to be selected in the expansion draft, then trading for a goalie makes no sense and Reimer is definitely the best option, he only costs cap space and a roster spot. It would be best to have him tandem with another UFA goalie like Johnson or Enroth (who have had good numbers). My guess is Tre is just waiting to find out if he has to protect Gillies or not.

  • RKD

    He would be a good fit here but it depends on how much he is asking for. He’s never played more than 40 games in a season, how would he handle 60-65 starts? He’s never won more than 20 games in a season. He is younger and would be cheaper than Bishop but also in addition to money what kind of length would he be looking for? A five year deal? A NMC?

  • GodsGotSandals

    If it’s true what the pens and bolts are asking for flurry and bishop I think treliving should hang up the phone on them. We don’t need a goalie so bad we give up what they want in return. I mean we could have price in net next year and we wouldn’t be contending for a cup never mind fleury.

      • GodsGotSandals

        I like the way you think. We ll see what the pens want when expansion rolls around and they might lose Murray for nothing cuase fleury has a nmc(I think). I bet it won’t be a first round pick.