Why James Reimer was a sneaky-good signing for the Panthers - The Hockey News on Sports Illustrated

Why James Reimer was a sneaky-good signing for the Panthers

James Reimer didn't land a starting goalie gig, but the term and money Florida gave him suggest he's not strictly a backup.
Publish date:
The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Unrestricted free agent goalie James Reimer's starting options dried up in a hurry. The Carolina Hurricanes re-upped Cam Ward, the Toronto Maple Leafs acquired Frederik Andersen and the Calgary Flames dealt for Brian Elliott. No other NHL team had an obvious need for an unquestioned No. 1.

But the deal Reimer signed with the Florida Panthers July 1 is the type that makes you say "Ohhh, I get it." Is a five-year, $17-million contract with a $3.4-million hit starter money? No, but it sure as heck ain't backup money, either. The Cats have set themselves up with an ideal fallback for – and perhaps successor to – Roberto Luongo. His contract actually ends after Reimer's, but Luongo is 37. The odds of him playing out that deal through 2021-22 are slim. Luongo appeared in 62 games this past season. Before the all-star break he posted at 2.08 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Afterward: 2.82 and .907. He understandably wilted down the stretch and admitted to feeling exhausted during Florida's first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders.

Reimer, for starters, can spell Luongo for 25 or even 30 games in 2016-17. Reimer has had longer looks as a starter than the departed Al Montoya, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see Reimer play a 1B role instead of taking on strict backup duty. The $3.4-million annual investment suggests as much. Reimer is 28, with many good years left, so he could take over the No. 1 job in a couple years depending on when Luongo retires or suffers a significant age-related decline.

Reimer deserves the increased responsibility. Game for game, minute for minute, he was one of the NHL's best goaltenders this season, with a smallish yet sparkling sample size, a-la Elliott. Reimer sizzled with a 1.62 GAA, .938 SP and three shutouts across eight starts after heading to San Jose in a mid-season trade. Among goalies with 1,200 or more minutes (20 games), Reimer's 5-on-5 save percentage was a league best .9404.

So while the flashy 2016 UFA class yielded much bigger headlines than Reimer's deal, it might soon be heralded as one of the day's smartest. Good on the Panthers.


Roberto Luongo is getting up there in age and Reimer provides a good safety net for that as a backup option and someone that can ease the burden. His even-strength save percentage last season was the third best mark in the league at .940, although when you adjust for the quality faced it was more towards the middle of the pack. Over the last three years that save percentage is .925, good for 24th in the league – essentially a below average starter. The price to be a backup is large, but Reimer will be a very good one. By Dominik Luszczyszyn



Ryan and Akil's Excellent Adventure

The prospects from Edmonton and Los Angeles are two Canadian kids getting game experience in Europe right now - and learning just how different food can be over there.


COVID-19 will put a damper on Stanley Cup celebrations in 2020

In normal years, each member of the winning team gets the Stanley Cup for a day to share with his family and friends, but we all know that 2020 has been anything but a normal year.


What were the Coyotes thinking when they drafted Mitchell Miller?

Arizona's first pick in the 2020 draft has a checkered past that includes assaulting a Black, mentally disabled teen four years ago. Even if he has changed, Miller is going to have a difficult time changing people's minds about him.