We know hindsight is 20/20. But can foresight ever be 20/20?
It apparently was for Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis, at least in one case. Two weeks ago, backup goaltender James Reimer may or may hot have been on the trading block. He was and still is a restricted free agent to be and he’d gradually lost the starting gig to Jonathan Bernier, who has carried the Leafs of late. Reimer also appeared to have fallen out of favor with coach Randy Carlyle. Remember the staredown after Carlyle yanked Reimer from a game against Detroit Dec. 21? Reimer had started 18 games from October to that point in December. In the three months since, he’s started six.
Considering how many goalies changed teams at the trade deadline last week, there had to be a market for Reimer. Minnesota acquired Ilya Bryzgalov as “insurance,” for Pete’s sake. So Nonis must have been tempted to move Reimer, whose days as the true No. 1 in Toronto are clearly done.
But Nonis didn’t and showed commendable foresight in that moment. The Leafs are not Stanley Cup contenders, but they are all but in the playoffs at this point. Over their last five games, they’ve won crucial conference matchups against the Rangers and Flyers and seemingly unwinnable games in Anaheim and Los Angeles. It usually isn’t pretty, but this team finds a way to win and, in a wide open Eastern Conference, there’s no telling what it might do.
If you’re a fringe playoff contender and a young team, it’s not smart to overextend yourself with a major deadline trade designed to help you win now. But it’s equally dumb to deal away important pieces when you know you’re competitive enough to make some noise in the East. The Leafs may lose Reimer this summer, whether they deal his rights before free agency or let him walk, but Nonis wisely retained him for the short term. Now, the Leafs reap the rewards.