James Reimer

What went wrong for Sharks goalies, what they want to improve


Sharks coach David Quinn found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place deciding between goalies James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen this season.

Reimer’s .890 save percentage was fourth-worst in the NHL out of 42 goalies who played 30-plus games, while Kahkonen’s .883 save percentage was second-worst.

Of course, the Sharks team defense did neither netminder any favors – per SPORTLOGiQ, San Jose surrendered the 10th-most Quality Chances in the NHL. But it’s not one or the other: Reimer and Kahkonen weren’t better than their circumstances either.

It’s also worth noting that the Sharks were a clearly better team, both in counting and underlying stats, before the trade deadline. Personally, I’d give Reimer and Kahkonen something of a pass post-deadline – they had five fewer regulars in front of them.

Anyway, just because things are ugly doesn’t mean you don’t look harder. And looking harder, with the help of SPORTLOGiQ’s micro-stats, we get a sense of where Reimer can be distinguished from Kahkonen, specific areas where both were victimized and where the Sharks must concentrate on defensively.

This is out of 40 goalies who played 1,500-plus 5-on-5 minutes. And…it’s ugly, with Kahkonen dead last in a number of key categories, while Reimer is not much better.

Both Reimer and Kahkonen struggled to handle the many scoring chances they faced, as their slot save percentage and inner slot save percentage indicate. The same goes for screened shots.

The amount of rush and cycle goals allowed, however, suggests that those are areas where the Sharks need to get better defensively. Giving up rush chances, in particular, was a San Jose weakness this past season: Per SPORTLOGiQ, the Sharks surrendered the second-most in the league.

Reimer appears to have a more nimble glove than Kahkonen, while Kahkonen is slightly better on the blocker side. There’s nothing to write home about here though.

Here’s where Reimer does separate himself from Kahkonen: He’s more trustworthy with the puck and has superior rebound control.

That rebound control likely is a reason why Reimer is so successful on the penalty kill, this is out of 75 qualified goalies:

Reimer was sixth in the NHL with a .893 penalty kill save percentage, of 40 keepers who played 150-plus PK minutes. Kahkonen was 18th with a .872.

So, anyway, where do the Sharks go from here?

Kahkonen is signed for one more season at $2.75 million AAV, while Reimer is a UFA. Assuming San Jose is stuck with Kahkonen – the 26-year-old has some upside and there’s not likely to be a lot of market interest after his past season – who will his partner be?

First off, my guess is there’s no reason for a rebuilding team like the Sharks to ink a pre-eminent free agent – no sense in investing significant money or term in a Tristan Jarry, for example.

There’s also no sense in trading a boatload for a franchise netminder like Connor Hellebuyck.

Grier, in his exit interview, suggested Reimer wouldn’t return, “If I’m being honest, I would say we probably won’t bring back the same goalie tandem as we had this year.”

But the 35-year-old keeper fits the profile of the type of solid veteran UFA insurance policy that could be a bridge for an in-flux Sharks roster.

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Also in this bucket? Ex-Sharks goalies Martin Jones and Alex Stalock, funny enough. Cam Talbot and Semyon Varlamov are among other veteran UFA options.

Another former Shark, 27-year-old Adin Hill, also is a UFA, albeit a much younger one. UFAs Anthony Stolarz and Alex Nedeljkovic also are both 27. Alex Lyon is a little in-between at 30. But these are all upside plays that should be cheaper than the most expensive netminding options.

The Sharks could also seek a goaltender via trade.

RFA Mackenzie Blackwood, a 2020 Calder Trophy candidate, could be available. San Jose also could alleviate a Toronto Maple Leafs’ salary cap problem in Matt Murray, who’s got another season left in his contract at $4.69 million AAV, while getting something extra for their troubles.

Whoever the Sharks might tap to pair with Kahkonen, it probably won’t matter much unless San Jose defends better in front of their goalies.

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