By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (July 26) – Any reporter or columnist that plans to engender a fuss at training camp over the Maple Leafs’ goaltending situation ought to think twice. First of all, James Reimer is way too intelligent to embroil himself in controversy. And second, Reimer understands he is profoundly fortunate to occupy one of 60 such positions in the National Hockey League.
Let’s look at it in simpler terms: You rent a $2.3-million condominium and you’d like to move. Sadly, there are no vacancies in the buildings your real estate agent has explored. So, you stay where you are for the time being and embrace your still-lavish surrounding. Reimer may not “live” exactly where he wants to at the moment but he has a nice “unit.” There aren’t any openings in his building or elsewhere in the neighborhood. He is likely, therefore, to accept his situation; understand it will change at some point and move forward with a productive mindset. Anyone that knows Optimus Reim can envision this scenario.
JAMES REIMER WILL NEITHER START NOR PARTICIPATE IN CONTROVERSY.
That’s why media covering the Leafs in September will need to look elsewhere for juice. The condominium towers that Reimer may have been eyeballing filled up rather quickly this summer. So, he’ll stay put. He would probably have appreciated a different landlord, but Randy Carlyle is still running the property. Whether that changes before Reimer finds a new condo is anyone’s guess. The assistant building manager recently promoted from across town comes with good credentials. He is likely to move into the big chair whenever a change is made – but almost certainly within the next 24 months (for those confused or unaware, Steve Spott is the new deputy). With a two-year lease extension and lower monthly payments, Reimer can afford to be patient.
Now, back to hockey-speak.
If discussing virtually anyone except James Reimer, the potential for disruption at training camp might exist. But, not with him. Unfailingly polite, Reimer will almost surely respond to the predictable questions on Monday – when he is scheduled to address his contract – and at the MasterCard Centre in early-September, where he will occupy (barring a trade) the No. 2 goaltending spot behind Jonathan Bernier. Reporters will have no success, however, with baited questions.
Again, the subject is too wily.
As such, I believe what general manager David Nonis said on Friday when asked about Reimer’s apparent request to be traded. “He never said ‘Get me out of here,'” emphasized Nonis. “What he did ask was for us to explore opportunities that would make sense for both sides. We did. I went back to him and said: ‘I don’t have something that I would feel comfortable doing and we prefer to sign you.’ We both felt him coming back was good for us and for him. He wouldn’t have signed a two-year-deal if he didn’t feel comfortable coming back to Toronto.”
The latter comment must be taken gingerly.
Yes, Reimer is probably “comfortable” in his situation but he’d much prefer a No. 1 role elsewhere (as would you or I had had we previously been a starter). And, his two-year, $4.6-million extension provides a good deal of flexibility if a trade scenario materializes.
As it stands, however, the Maple Leafs are fortunate to have a reliable back-up goalie with a movable contract… and one that doesn’t rock the boat. From a strategic point of view, there is no reason to unload Reimer. Nor is there any obvious place for him to land right now.
I suspect both parties are on the same page.
FOR A COLLEAGUE: My best wishes to David Alter, the young man that succeeded me as Maple Leafs beat-reporter at Sportsnet-590. The radio station let David go on Tuesday. I know the feeling all-too well.
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