Coming off one of his worst seasons since entering the NHL, James Reimer will be seeking a bounce back year with the Carolina Hurricanes.
Reimer’s career has been a bit of a rollercoaster, bouncing between fringe starter and backup. Last season, however, he posted just a .900 save percentage and a 3.09 goals against average with the Florida Panthers. Despite the down year though, there are a lot of reasons to be excited about Reimer joining the Hurricanes.
Assuming he’s the backup to start the year, he’s a backup that will be able to take on a lot of games, having essentially split time with Roberto Luongo for the last three seasons. He’s likely to get into 35-40 games, which works perfectly when using Petr Mrazek as a starter. Mrazek has played 39 and 40 games respectively in the last two seasons and 54 and 50 games with Detroit before that. Mrazek will likely be good for between 40-50 games this year and if he struggles or gets injured, Reimer is someone who can step in and carry some of the load.
Reimer’s contract isn’t great– a $3.4M AAV for the next two years is a bit steep based on how he performed last year. But between Mrazek and Reimer, the Hurricanes are only paying about $6.5M total for their goaltending duo for each of the next two seasons and between the two, they’re likely to get sturdy goaltending.
Based on how Reimer has been throughout his career, signs point to him returning to a better form. He’s posted a positive goals saved above average in five of the last nine years and holds a .914 career save percentage.
Something that gets lost in Reimer’s inconsistency is that he’s had a .920 save percentage or above in four of his nine NHL seasons. In two seasons, he’s also been between a .910 and .915 save percentage– perfectly fine numbers for a backup– and he’s only been below a .910 save percentage in three of those nine seasons, while never posting below a .900 save percentage in a single season.
Using Reimer as a backup also gives Alex Nedeljkovic more time to develop with Charlotte. Nedeljkovic did post a .916 save percentage in 51 AHL games last year but it wouldn't hurt to give him a bit more time in the minors to develop. Meanwhile, Reimer will also be more reliable than Anton Forsberg, who hasn't been able to establish himself at the NHL level despite a great AHL track record.
Look for Reimer to bounce back and form a solid duo with Petr Mrazek this year. If Mrazek struggles, Reimer will be able to provide the Hurricanes with great support.