It appears Roberto Luongo won’t be playing in Vancouver or Toronto next season.
The Leafs re-signed largely unproven goalie Ben Scrivens to a new two-year contract today. The contract is worth $1.225 million, playing $600,000 in the first year and the remainder in the second year.
Scrivens’ new contract will end at the same time James Reimer‘s current contract ends. Reimer signed a three-year contract extension worth $5.4 million in 2011 following a breakout rookie campaign. In 37 games that season, he posted a 20-10-5 record with a 2.60 goals against average and .921 save percentage.
Reimer began the 2011-2012 season as the Leafs’ top goaltender, but an early season injury due to Brian Gionta‘s errant elbow saw him spend significant time on injured reserve. Former Leafs goalie Jonas Gustavsson manned the net alongside Scrivens in Reimer’s absence.
Neither backup goaltender excelled in the opportunity to carry a larger workload, but they remained in the picture as Reimer underwent his own struggles upon returning to the lineup.
Last season Reimer finished 14-14-4 with a 3.10 goals against average and .900 save percentage in 34 games; Gustavsson finished 17-17-4 with a 2.92 goals against average and .902 save percentage in 42 games; and Scrivens finished 4-5-2 with a 3.13 goals against average and .903 save percentage in 12 games.
Before the season ended, it was clear Gustavsson would never realize his full potential in Toronto (Burke once labelled him “the best goalie not playing in the NHL”) so the team traded him to Winnipeg in the off-season for a conditional draft pick. He failed to sign in Winnipeg and landed in Detroit instead as a free agent on July 1.
Moving forward, the fact Reimer’s and Scrivens’ contracts end at the same time raises three interesting possibilities.
First, the two young goaltenders many find themselves battling over the future top job in Toronto. The team is unlikely to keep both puck stoppers after the 2013-2014 season, especially when other (and cheaper) goaltending options like Jussi Rynnas are nipping at their heels.
Reimer is the youngest of the bunch and the most likely to win the contest given his past success, but there is finally some decent internal competition over the position. This is one positive.
My guess is that the loser of the contest will find himself playing elsewhere while Rynnas assumes the full-time backup position.
Second, the contracts are both relatively short and inexpensive, giving the team some flexibility.
If the Leafs find themselves struggling to stop pucks again next season, they could easily cut ties with one or both young goalies and correct the problem by bringing a veteran to town. They could also trade one of the young goalies to secure another position (isn’t there a gap at center?).
Finally, Brian Burke may be positioning himself or his successor for another rebuild in 2014. Here it is important to remember that Burke’s own contract ends in 2014.
Burke might want to stay beyond this point, but he must show some real progress or free his hands to try again. Otherwise, he’ll likely enjoy the same fate as Gustavsson and the loser of the Reimer-Scrivens contest.
It can’t inspire confidence in Burke that his past dealings in Toronto have been handcuffed by injury and mediocrity.
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