The newest Carolina Hurricanes’ netminder has struggled to start the season. What should the Carolina Hurricanes do about him, if anything at all?
Last week, I took to Twitter to ask you guys your thoughts on what the Carolina Hurricanes should do about James Reimer. Of the four choices (maintain status quo, try and trade him, waive him and call up Alex Nedeljkovic, or ‘other’), the vast majority of you voted to waive him and call up Alex Nedeljkovic.
While I do think Nedeljkovic is fully ready for a full-time backup spot, I don’t think waiving Reimer is the best way to go about things. Yet.
James Reimer is by no means a bad goaltender. The 31 year-old netminder still has potential to be a fully-fledged backup, and possibly even a starter in the NHL. The issue with Reimer doesn’t lie within himself alone. Even judging by an extended ‘eye test’, the Canes play an entirely different game when he is in net as opposed to when Petr Mrazek is in net.
This isn’t to slight the Carolina Hurricanes at all; what this illuminates, at least to me, is that the Canes have yet to build a solid foundation of confidence in Reimer. The same confidence it took them a few months to build with Curtis McElhinney last season still has yet to develop.
That being said, Reimer’s numbers are concerning. A 3-4-0 record, alongside a .903% save percentage, and a 3.07 goals-against average are not going to cut it, especially in today’s NHL. We could dive a bit further into advanced statistics, but for brevity’s sake we will stay within the realm of general statistics and what can physically be seen on the ice.
James Reimer impressed all of us this preseason, but the preseason and regular season are vastly different arenas. While Reimer has been known to make a flashy or clutch save here and there (Cameron Kenneth Ward comes to mind, but I digress), in today’s league, consistency is far more valuable than flashiness.
So that leaves us with the titular question: what should the Carolina Hurricanes do about Reimer? That question is a bit difficult to answer, but I’ll give it a shot.
The Carolina Hurricanes have depth at the goaltending position like never before. Gone are the days of relying on goalies like Justin Peters, Drew MacIntyre, and Michael Leighton to provide our starting netminder with some relief.
Even further down the depth chart, the Carolina Hurricanes have Jack LaFontaine, Eetu Makiniemi, Jake Kucharski, and Pytor Kochetkov (Canes’ goalie of the future, hopefully) developing quite nicely. Taking this, as well as each of the younger goalies’ performances so far this season into account, there isn’t a guaranteed, surefire replacement for Reimer in the very near future.
So, that leaves us with basically two options as of the writing of this article: trade Reimer, or keep the status quo. Before we begin, I am not necessarily an advocate for or against trading James Reimer; I’m simply exploring the options that the Canes may have in regards to the situation.
First, let’s look at a potential trade scenario involving Reimer. His current contract is set to expire after the 2020-21 season, and carries a cap hit of $3.4M. For comparison, Petr Mrazek’s contract also expires after the 2020-21 season, but carries a cap hit of $3.125M. Reimer, given his current performance, is vastly overpaid, and teams around the league know that.
To move Reimer would take a vast amount of trading block sorcery, and I’m not entirely sure any given team would be willing to bite. If I’m Don Waddell, I’d be inclined to include him in a package deal, possibly with a later-round pick or two, in exchange for a cheaper, more proven backup goaltender. These are incredibly rare in the league today, so trading him might turn out to be more of a headache than keeping him.
This leaves us with the one option: maintain the status quo. The season is early, and the Carolina Hurricanes are traditionally slow-starters. The confidence the Canes need to have in Reimer may come soon, and it may prove to be a huge payoff; as I’ve said from the beginning, Reimer has potential, and a lot of it. It might just take one or two solid games from Reimer for the team to gain a solid footing of confidence in him. If that’s the cost, then it is definitely worth it to keep him.
A good first step in building that confidence could very well have been made this past weekend; Reimer had an incredible showing against the Minnesota Wild, and was a big reason the Canes managed to pull out a win. Could this be the start of his redemption with the Carolina Hurricanes? Only time will tell.
All this being said, the situation is far from dire. The season is young, and the Carolina Hurricanes and James Reimer both have a good bit of time to figure each other out. Let’s just hope it happens sooner rather than later.
Question for CC Readers: What do you think the Carolina Hurricanes should do about James Reimer?