Andrew Bensch The Hockey Writers
Reimer, Polak, Spaling; Making Sense of Sharks-Leafs Trades
The news broke Saturday morning Pacific time that the San Jose Sharks had acquired Leafs goaltender James Reimer and AHLer Jeremy Morin in exchange for goaltender Alex Stalock, AHLer Ben Smith and a conditional 2018 draft selection. For all the basic details of this trade, including how the fourth round pick can become a third round pick, check out Luke Nelson’s breakdown of the trade.
This column will take into account how the trade of Reimer to San Jose makes perfect sense in terms of the overall picture. Last week the Sharks moved out the seemingly forever injured Raffi Torres’ contract and two second-round picks to Toronto for defenseman Roman Polak and depth forward Nick Spaling. Giving up two second rounders for a bottom pair defenseman with little offensive ability and poor analytic numbers as well as a depth forward with weak possession statistics was a clear overpay. However, the trade now makes a lot more sense if we include the Reimer deal as one big move between these two teams.
San Jose Badly Needed Reimer
San Jose needed a reliable backup netminder as Alex Stalock has statistically been the worst goaltender in the NHL this season with a save percentage well below .900. And Reimer is no ordinary backup. In fact, one could argue he could come right into the Sharks and deserve a 50-50 split with first-year starter Martin Jones. Reimer is that good. When now former teammate and fellow netminder Jonathan Bernier opened the season with one of the worst starts ever from the goaltending position, Reimer started his season on fire. The soon to be 28-year-old goaltender posted a ridiculous .954 save percentage through his first 16 games this season. Overall Reimer’s save percentage has leveled out to an above average .918, slightly higher than Jones’ .916.
In the official deal for Reimer, the Sharks send back Stalock, Smith and likely a fourth round pick. For a No. 1 caliber goaltender, that is an extremely cheap price. Stalock and Smith are basically throw ins for cap space purposes and a fourth round pick for a No. 1 goalie is far cheaper than the cost for Polak and Spaling. Make no mistake though, Reimer is a far better goaltender than either Polak or Spaling are at their respective positions.
Pretty Equal Value Going Both Ways
While there are other parts to this deal, the real true value pieces going each way are Reimer, Polak and Spaling going to San Jose, and two second round picks going to Toronto. Pretty fair trade when you look at it this way. Why didn’t it all go down as one big trade instead of two separate deals is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the Leafs thought they could get more for Reimer and other teams pulled out until San Jose came calling again. Like in any business, hockey general managers like working with other teams/companies that they have successfully worked with in the past. So perhaps Sharks GM Doug Wilson overpaid for Polak and Spaling, thinking that he could come back around to Leafs’ GM Lou Lamoriello and he would be able to get a good price on Reimer.
If you call yourself a Sharks fan, you should definitely feel much better about giving up the two second round picks to Toronto, now knowing that your favorite team has two No. 1 quality netminders ready to go for the playoffs. Not many teams out there can say they have two bonafide starting netminders.
On the flip side, if you’re a Leafs fan, you have to like stockpiling draft picks for expiring contracts. Toronto has a bright future ahead, with top prospects in house and lots of ammunition at the next few drafts. Lamoriello and company have also brilliantly found a way to jettison all their bad expensive contracts to other teams. Getting two seconds and a fourth back for expiring contracts in Reimer, Polak and Spaling, is a pretty good haul.
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