TORONTO – Goaltender James Reimer is very thankful the Toronto Maple Leafs don’t play again until after the NHL trade deadline.
Clubs have until 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday to make deals and reshape their roster. Of course, it’s an unsettling time for NHL players, including Toronto goaltenders Reimer and Ben Scrivens with the Leafs looking at possibly adding Calgary veteran Miikka Kiprusoff for their stretch run.
Fortunately for Reimer, Toronto is in the midst of a four-day break and doesn’t play again until Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers.
“Honestly, it’s a distraction,” Reimer said following practice Tuesday. “I think it’s a huge distraction.
“If you have the opportunity to not be playing I think that’s probably almost a benefit. It’s not like maybe it would ruin your play, per se, but I mean it’s a distraction and so it’s just one more thing you have to keep off your mind. I think it’s maybe just a little benefit that you’re not playing.”
Reimer, 25, and Scrivens, 26, have both been solid in helping stake Toronto (20-12-4) into a tie with Ottawa (19-10-6) for fifth in the Eastern Conference standings heading into the Senators’ game Tuesday night with Boston.
The six-foot-two, 208-pound Reimer has an impressive 13-4-4 record, 2.52 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and two shutouts in 22 appearances this season. Scrivens is 7-8-0 in 18 games but boasts a tidy 2.59 GAA and .918 save percentage to go with his two shutouts.
But neither Reimer nor Scrivens has any NHL playoff experience. So the Leafs, looking to break a nine-year post-season drought, have reportedly received permission from the Calgary Flames to speak with Kiprusoff’s representatives.
Kiprusoff has struggled this season with a 6-9-2 record in 17 games, 3.52 GAA and .873 save percentage. He was yanked from Calgary’s 4-1 loss to Edmonton on Monday after allowing three goals on six shots.
The 36-year-old boasts a career 2.48 GAA and .913 save percentage. He still has a year remaining on a deal that reportedly doesn’t include a no-trade clause, but talk is Kiprusoff has made it clear if he’s dealt he won’t report to his new team.
The speculation swirling about the move in goal mirrors the situation both Reimer and Scrivens endured prior to the season when Toronto was being mentioned as a potential landing spot for Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
“I think both of us have had a lot of practice dealing with these and answering these questions,” Scrivens said. “It’s a fun position to be in because it shows people genuinely care about the team and just want the team to get better in whatever way they can.”
Added Reimer: “Honestly, it’s the same thing as training camp. It’s not something you can control, especially now. I’ve done what I can do. Obviously they’re both world-class goaltenders and if they came it would be an honour to play with them and learn from them. If not, then we keep plugging away and working hard and doing what we can to give this team a chance.
“All you can control is how you play. I know it’s a huge cliche, obviously, but it’s the truth.”
Toronto made one goaltending move Tuesday, signing minor-leaguer Drew MacIntyre to an NHL deal. The 29-year-old is currently with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and offers the Leafs some insurance.
The challenge facing Toronto GM Dave Nonis is trying to make a move that will make his club better and not hurt its chemistry.
“There’s always danger when you’re dealing with the movement of players and personalities, but that’s part of the business,” head coach Randy Carlyle said. “There’s a certain amount of risk that goes with every decision you make. It’s no different than changing a winger on a line.
“We’ve stayed the course with our group. We believe in what we’ve created here as far as their work ethic is concerned and getting respectability for our hockey club. We’ve talked about numerous situations. Deadlines force people’s hands . . . if we feel a change is necessary, then I’m sure our management will consider anything.”
Centre Tyler Bozak knows all about what it’s like dealing with trade talk in Toronto. His name was mentioned very prominently as a major piece in the Leafs’ acquiring Luongo from Vancouver.
“I’ve learned over the years when you play here there are going to be rumours floating around, especially at this time of the year,” Bozak said. “Obviously we never want to see anyone leave and we’re hoping it doesn’t have to happen that way.
“But you know it’s a business and it’s that time of year so whatever happens happens. We’re happy with the way we’re playing, we love the guys we have here, we think we have the guys who can get the job done.”
Reimer said he’d be happy if Toronto didn’t make a deal at the deadline.
“If that’s the case, obviously I’ll be excited and try to just keep doing what I’ve been doing,” he said. “That’s working hard and playing as well as I can and taking pride in that.”
NOTES—Bozak is a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan but wasn’t going to attend the Jays’ season opener Wednesday night. “I couldn’t get any tickets,” he said. “I’ll probably go (Wednesday) night and check them out. I hope they have a good year and live up to the high expectations they’ve got.” . . . Near the end of practice, Carlyle had his players skate the width of the rink for conditioning, with Reimer and Scrivens doing so at centre ice for everyone to see. “They tried to hide. Everybody else was on the boards and they’re standing in the crease. I didn’t really like that so we moved them to centre so everybody could watch them skate,” the coach said . . . Forwards Leo Komarov and Clarke MacArthur, both nursing undisclosed upper body injuries, participated in contact drills Tuesday. “That’s the first step in them coming back into a lineup. Hopefully they are a possibility for Thursday,” Carlyle said.