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:
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):
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.
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.