Vancouver, BC – New Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis has been content to leave his goaltending tandem untouched through the first quarter of the season but the recent knee injury to James Reimer might force him to change his approach.
With the Leafs off to a solid start to the campaign and given the critical need for that franchise to reach the postseason for the first time since 2004, it's hard to imagine Nonis is comfortable with sitting back and leaving the fate of his club even in the short-term in the hands of 26-year-old Ben Scrivens, who has all of 17 games worth of NHL experience on his resume.
Even if Reimer's setback is short-term as the team believes it will be, the Leafs have to be seriously considering making a move for insurance purposes given Reimer's recent history with injuries.
Reimer, now in his third season at the NHL level, missed a significant chunk of games midseason last year with a concussion and then had to contend with a neck issue that kept him out toward the end of the campaign.
Toronto has long been thought to be in the market for a new number one netminder with most of the rumors surrounding current Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, a player that the Leafs were believed to be heavily pursuing during the extended offseason.
Those rumors have understandably died down with the Leafs off to a good start thanks in large part to Reimer, who is responsible for six of his team's eight wins and has so far produced career-best numbers in goals-against-average (2.31) and save percentage (.929).
The fact the Canucks are off to a good start of their own and seemingly have no issues for the time being rotating starts between Luongo and Cory Schneider has also contributed to the lack of trade talks.
Reimer's strong play this season might be enough to dissuade the Leafs from making any more advances towards the Canucks for the services of Luongo given the fact that adding the Canadian Olympic gold medalist to their lineup would essentially spell the end of Reimer's career in Toronto. At the same time, it's also increasingly unlikely the Leafs have the parts to make a serious run at Luongo. The Canucks had been rumored to be interested in Toronto center Tyler Bozak but the imminent return of Ryan Kesler coupled with the recent strong play of rookie Jordan Schroeder greatly diminishes their need for a center in return.
Kings' backup netminder, 24-year-old Jonathan Bernier, is another name that has been bandied about in Toronto as a potential trade target and makes more sense for the Leafs than Luongo since he'd likely be brought in to work in tandem alongside Reimer as opposed to just usurp the number one role as Luongo would.
Bernier, however, would likely fetch a price even greater than Luongo's given his age and friendlier contract status.
There may also be some interest in bringing in a capable veteran who could take over the reins if needed although their lack of success the last few years with that set up (see Curtis Joseph or Jean-Sebastien Giguere) would probably preclude them from heading back down that path.
The asking price for goalies currently available will have an effect on the direction that Nonis ultimately decides to take but it's clear that the one thing the Leafs GM cannot afford to do is maintain the status quo especially seeing as how Toronto could be just one Reimer slump or injury away from missing the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.
Nonis' phone might have been largely dormant for the opening month of the season as far as goaltending talks are concerned but this current injury to Reimer might just be the wake-up call that the Leafs GM needs to finally address their situation in the crease once and for all.