With Robin Lehner out 6-10 weeks, at least, with a high ankle sprain, the Buffalo Sabres are going to have to rely on Chad Johnson to carry the load for the next two months or so. But what happens if he goes down with an injury?
Behind Johnson, the Sabres currently have Nathan Lieuwen on the roster. Behind him it’s Rochester Americans goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Andrey Makarov. While all three have the potential to be solid NHL netminders, none of them are proven NHL-ready goalies that can easily be relied upon.
Because of that, it’s no surprise that the team has been looking at every option possible to solidify the goaltending position. And, according to people with knowledge of the situation, that includes exploring the trade market to see who is available and for what price.
While many will suggest looking at teams like Anaheim, Edmonton and Calgary as possible trade partners due to their current situations, The Hockey News has added another team and name to the list.
James Reimer is in the final year of his contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and very well could be a cheap target for general manager Tim Murray and the Sabres. The Leafs have already extended Jonathan Bernier, showing confidence that he his the goalie of the future for the team. Reimer, on the other hand, hasn’t been given that opportunity.
As mentioned, Reimer is in the final year of his contract. Bringing him into Buffalo to play alongside Johnson, who is also in the last year of his deal, could provide to be a nice competition to see who will potentially be on the roster going forward.
Whether the Leafs would be willing to make a deal with a division rival, especially one like Buffalo, is another story all together. Still, at the end of the day, the Maple Leafs are likely to lose Reimer at the end of the season. It would just make too much sense to make sure they get something for him.
Of course, there is the question of who would then back up Bernier in Toronto. In the AHL, the Leafs have 21-year old Antoine Bibeau and 22-year old Garret Sparks, both of whom have not had a single minute of NHL action. Are either of them ready to make the leap? The answer isn’t clear.
But if they don’t feel comfortable with the two options with the Marlies, there is the free agent market that, although thin, could provide a backup option for the Leafs for a season in which they won’t be competing for the Stanley Cup.
Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.