James Reimer was about to tuck in for a nap when his phone rang. It was a New Jersey area code. He knew what it concerned.
Seconds later, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello was telling Reimer that he was now a member of the San Jose Sharks.
“It’s sports. It’s hockey. It’s a forever-changing thing. I had a lot of good years here. It’s definitely a weird feeling going somewhere else,” said Reimer.
Reimer was drafted in the fourth round by the Leafs in 2006. He came up through the Toronto Marlies, played with the Maple Leafs for six seasons over 207 games and seven playoff games – the less said about that seventh game in 2013, the better, of course.
But after that 2013 run that saw him go 19-8-5 with a .924 save percentage, Reimer could never nail down a starting role. Some of this wasn’t his fault, as the Leafs didn’t exactly have faith in him – as was evidenced by their quest to acquire Roberto Luongo and their eventual acquisition of Jonathan Bernier.
What does Reimer recall from his days with the Leafs?
“Just the good times, just the good times,” he said.
“There are going to be highs and lows. When the crowd got going there. When you have success on a roll. Those are the times I’ll remember. The fan base there, the whole city, how they can get behind you. I can’t thank them enough for making my time more special.”
This has been a strong season for Reimer until recently, when the Leafs began aggressively dismantling their team. His .918 save percentage is solid; ditto his 2.49 goals against average. He credited his coaches for it.
“The system we had in place there had more structure than we had in the past. You had more of an idea of what was coming at you,” said Reimer, who also worked on his puck tracking in the offseason.
He arrives in San Jose as Martin Jones’s backup, and with a chance to contribute to a team making a playoff push.
“I’m excited. Obviously San Jose has been a great team, a really good organization for the last 10 years,” said Reimer. “Given this opportunity to come to a team like San Jose, a team poised to do some damage, it’s really exciting.”
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