- Pierre LeBrun, NHL
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TORONTO -- Of the 30 training camps underway around the NHL, Toronto’s is about the last one James Reimer figured to be at this year.
Truth be told, anyway. And Reimer has to be a little careful with how much honesty he throws into answering that question.
Because as it turns out, despite wanting a change of scenery after last season’s well-documented turn of events, Reimer in fact stayed put.
"There were some doubts about where I stood or what the direction would be going forward," Reimer said Friday on Day 2 of Leafs camp. "Over the course of the summer I really liked what was going on here.
"I think good things have gone on here. I’m pretty excited."
Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis certainly looked around to see what was out there, but at the end of the day, there was nothing that made sense for Toronto. It’s hard to ask for an asset back from teams when they can look at all of the unrestricted free-agent goalies on the market and get them for nothing.
Reimer is a smart dude; he looked at the marketplace and understood that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to trade him if Toronto wasn't going to get proper value in return. So he accepted that it didn’t happen.
"Obviously there’s only 60 spots and there’s a lot of good goaltenders, but I was excited to come back here," Reimer said. "At the end of the year it could have been doubtful, but as the summer goes on, you look at the chance we could have and the team we’re going to have . . . It’s something I was excited about and wanted to jump on board with."
So for now, Reimer and the Leafs will co-exist. In fact, they can really help each other out. Reimer gives Toronto quality insurance behind No. 1 Jonathan Bernier. In return, if Reimer shines when given the chance, his stock will rise ahead of the March trade deadline, or next offseason.
He signed a two-year, $4.6 million deal this summer, a contract he may very well carry somewhere else at some point.
For now, it’s about making the best of it. And for those who have been around Reimer, he’s an affable sort with a terrific attitude. He won’t be a sourpuss. He’ll be a good soldier.
"I’m coming in to compete as hard as I can and prepare for this season so that when Game 1 hits, you are ready to go and ready to be that guy for your team," Reimer said. "As far as how many games and what’s going to take place, that’s up to Randy. I’m just going to play my heart out like I always do and see where everything falls."
Randy Carlyle wasn’t on Reimer’s BFF list last season after the Leafs' coach commented following a loss in Detroit that the Reimer was "OK, just OK." What with Toronto being the biggest hockey media market in the world, that comment resonated like a hand grenade. It also coincided with Reimer’s worst stretch of the season while Bernier was injured and the Leafs had an epic collapse that dropped them out of the playoffs.
Now Reimer and Carlyle are back together, and on Day 1 of camp, Carlyle seemed to open the door for Reimer to still have an important role with Bernier.
"Well, right now, and I’m going to say it, it’s 1A and 1B," Carlyle said Thursday. "And you laugh at me, and you say, 'he’s full of this, he’s full of that.' Well, the reality is if you go to every team, you have to have somebody that’s going to emerge and be your guy. Usually that happens over the course of the first 40 games. That’s what happened to us last year.
"For Bernie, you can’t ignore how well he played for our hockey club, and we think the time James Reimer has spent with our group, we think he has a better understanding of what happened. But we’re not casting James Reimer to the side. We’re going to need James Reimer to go in and play and win us hockey games. It’s as simple as that."
They do need Reimer because there’s concern that Bernier wore down last season in his first year as the No. 1 goalie. So it will be important to pace Bernier and avoid that happening again.
As for his exact role, Reimer said Friday that he hasn’t heard yet from the coach himself.
"I’m not quite sure," he said. "We haven’t had a chat yet, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m coming in here to challenge for that No. 1. That’s how it is every year, whether you are solidified or whether there’s an opening or not. It’s one of those things where it’s my mindset to go out there and compete and compete hard for my teammates and give them a chance to win."
And help his own future in the process.
1301dScott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun