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(FRED THORNHILL)
(FRED THORNHILL)

Maple Leafs lock up Reimer Add to ...

The Toronto Maple Leafs have locked up their starter for another three years.

James Reimer, the 23-year-old netminder who had a storybook rookie campaign this season, signed a $5.4-million contract Thursday that keeps him signed through the 2013-14 season.

A pending restricted free agent, Reimer will have a cap hit of $1.8-million.

"I think it's a steal for the Toronto Maple Leafs if he continues to play the way he did at the end of last season," Reimer's agent Ray Petkau said. "If he levels off a little bit, then it's also not a big risk for the Leafs."

The deal is far more than anyone expected a year ago for the youngster from Morweena, Man., as Reimer was fourth on Toronto's depth chart going into training camp and didn't get his first NHL start until New Year's Day.

With the Leafs well out of the playoff race, however, he was their best player the rest of the way, posting a 20-10-5 record with a .921 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average.

"We are extremely pleased to have come to terms on this new deal with James," Leafs GM Brian Burke said in a statement. "He earned the opportunity to play at the NHL level this past season and he made the most of it with his outstanding play.

"He really grabbed the net and never looked back. We are confident that his talent and strong work habits will be contributing factors to our team's success next season."

Petkau said the two sides have been negotiating for several weeks and that the deal was finalized in the last 48 hours.

Reimer is celebrating his one-year wedding anniversary in Hawaii but is expected to speak with the media later in the day.

"He's celebrating on the beach, I think," Petkau said.

"This wasn't going to be one of those situations where we hold out for the most amount of money you can get and destroying relationships. That's the last thing that James would want. He's happy with the terms."

Petkau added that Reimer is determined to keep up his strong play next season.

"He just wanted to get [the contract]done and focus on improving over last year's results," Petkau said. "He's really got a very demanding workout schedule planned for the summer.

"Everyone talks about the sophomore jinx but if his work ethic in the gym has any bearing on that, there's going to be no such thing for him. He's working extremely hard. He looks fantastic."

Reimer became a fan favourite in Toronto as much for his play as his "aw shucks" small town personality in his first season, saying at times he was overwhelmed by the support he received.

"It's been fun," he said late in the year. "It's been hard to kind of grasp the whole thing because it feels like every day something new happens. I'm still just trying to enjoy the ride."

Reimer went on to have a solid showing playing for Canada at the world championships and is expected to get the bulk of the starts for Toronto next season.

The Leafs backup situation has yet to be settled. Jonas Gustavsson is under contract but struggled during the season and rarely played down the stretch.

A veteran free agent may be brought in to share the load with Reimer.

 

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