When James Reimer avoided arbitration with the Toronto Maple Leafs by signing a 2-year contract extension for $4.6 million, many hockey fans were initially shocked that the disgruntled goalie would sign on for a couple more seasons with a club he was close to divorcing.
The Score writer Justin Cuthbert wrote how the deal Reimer signed is beneficial for both the Leafs and the player. Cuthbert doesn’t even try to beat around the bush by discussing the Jets as a likely suitor for the Winnipeg Jets by quoting “Reimer will only cost a frugal club (let’s call them his hometown Winnipeg Jets)….”
It’s easy to speculate on any source of material as a hockey fan in late July, but when a deal makes so much sense it’s hard to believe it hasn’t already happened yet. Reimer is a hometown boy, he has a decent cap hit, he’s an improvement in net for the Jets, and he doesn’t seem to have much of a future with his current team.
REIMER > PAVELEC
I’ve long been criticizing the fact that Ondrej Pavelec is not a very good goalie. He’d be a decent backup on a lot of NHL teams right now, but instead he’s the Jets starter by default because of a ridiculous 5-year contract he signed 2 years ago. NhlNumbers has Pavalec’s cap hit at $3.9 million, while he’ll make $4.2 million this upcoming season and $4.7 million the next year.
Pavelec’s best season came in 2010-11 with the Thrashers where he played 58 games, assembled a 21-23-9 record while posting career highs (to this day) with a .914 save percentage and 2.73 GAA. Ever since then, Pavelec has struggled with obscene mediocrity posting a save percentage in the low .900’s and a GAA closer to 3 then the mid 2’s.
Pavelec’s 5×5 save percentage is among the worst in the NHL, where he only stopped 90.9% at even strength ranking him 25th among the league’s goaltenders.
James Reimer on the other hand, will have a cap hit of $2.3 million, while making $2.6 million this upcoming season and a mere $2 million for the 2015-16 season.
Reimer was the reason for faith in Toronto, when he burst into the league like a bat of hell and almost led the Leafs to a playoff birth in 2010-112 where he compiled a 20-10-5 record and stopped an astounding 93.3% at even strength. The following year was more difficult for Reimer as he lost his mojo a little bit and posted Ondrej Pavelec-like numbers. Still he stopped 91.9% at even strength that season.
Reimer then was able to back-stop the Leafs to their first playoff birth in ages during the lockout season. He posted a solid .924 save percentage on a team that is historically outshot critically. Last season was a tough one for Reimer and his numbers fell slightly again as he lost the starting job to Jonathan Bernier. Still, Reimer stopped a respectable 92.2% of the shots he faced at even strength.
ARE THE JETS COMFORTABLE WITH MICHAEL HUTCHINSON AS BACKUP?
The Jets seem like they are set going forward with Ondrej Pavelec as the starter, and rookie Michael Hutchinson as the backup.
Hutchinson is a fairly-rype prospect at 24, and has posted very good numbers throughout his junior and pro career. Drafted by the Boston Bruins in the 3rd round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Hutchinson made his pro debut in 2010-11 splitting time between the Reading Royals of the ECHL and Providence Bruins of the AHL. Due to the Bruins employing the likes of Anton Khudobin and Niklas Svedberg, Hutchinson always seemed to be the guy in the ECHL rather than backing up at the AHL level.
When the Bruins solidified Rask at the goalie of the future and present, and with Malcom Subban on the horizon, the Bruins let Hutchinson walk, and the Jets signed him on July 19, 2013. Hutchinson once again split the season between the ECHL and AHL, but Hutchinson had seized the job from Edward Pasquale, and ended up leading the IceCaps to the Calder Cup finals.
Hutchinson has proven he deserved a chance, and his 3-game trial for the Jets last year (3GP 2-1-0, 1.64 GAA, .943 save percentage) definitely backs his chance up. The biggest issue is if it’s a good idea to give the backup job to a guy who has been splitting time in the AHL and lesser ECHL, especially if the guy you’re backing up is the enigmatic Ondrej Pavelec.
There’s a reason a used a bold title for this blog, and it’s because I do believe Reimer will find his way back home before this contract is up. Hutchinson and Pavelec are not a tandem that will get the Jets to the playoffs, and if the Jets ever want to make a run at a post-season birth, they’ll have to look at other options in the crease.
Reimer can still be a bonafide number one goaltender, and we already know he’s better than Pavelec. If the Jets were just getting that one extra save from time to time, it could be the difference between and win and a loss, one point and two points, and possibly playoffs or the golf course.