The same will not likely be true for free agency, but the Carolina Hurricanes have staked a legitimate claim for being the #1 mover and shaker in the trade market in the week between the 2019 NHL draft and the start of free agency on July 1.
Not counting trading down in the draft twice, the Hurricanes have now made four trades this week.
Sunday’s entry was yet another that had a huge financial angle to it. Rather than buying out Scott Darling, the Hurricanes managed to deal him to Florida (who then bought him out) with a sixth round draft pick for goalie James Reimer.
The financials which again rule the deal
This will be the third out of the four deals that are primarily about the math and dollars. Scott Darling was not going to play again in the Hurricanes organization, so had this deal not happened, it most certainly would have been the Hurricanes buying him out. The cost in actual dollars of buying him out would have been $1.183 million for for years with a slightly higher salary cap hit spread oddly over the same four years. So the total cost would have been $4.73 million.
Instead the Hurricanes added James Reimer who is due $3.1 million per year for each of the next two years for $6.2 million total. In essence, measured in actual dollars the Hurricanes added about $1.4 million in cost, but in the process added a goalie who can actually slot into the lineup.
The one wild card is that Reimer has a lockout-shielded contract that pays him $2.25 million in signing bonus (due even if there is a lockout) and only $950,000 of salary in 2020-21.
If Reimer plays a role, even just backup, at the NHL level the deal makes sense financially, and unloading Scott Darling and his contract without paying a small fortune in futures is a veritable magician’s act by Waddell. Just last week the Hurricanes received a first-round draft pick for picking up $3.8 million of salary on Patrick Marleau.
I would categorize James Reimer as a bit of a question mark with potential upside. After a couple years of playing pretty well in front of a couple pretty bad Maple Leafs teams, Reimer was signed to be a 1A/1B in Florida. But when the team got the opportunity to bring back Roberto Luongo, it pounced. Ironically, Reimer’s departure comes right on the heels of Luongo’s retirement and at a time when the Panthers do not even have a goalie. But the expectation is that they are hoping to land Sergei Bobrovsky at which point going with an expensive backup probably makes sense.
Reimer posted a solid .922 in a 2015-16 season mostly with the Leafs before a trade deadline move to the Sharks. He followed that up with a solid .920 save percentage in 43 games in 2016-17 with the Panthers and then a .913 save percentage in 2017-18 in 44 games also with the Panthers. The 2018-19 season saw him dip to .900.
The burning question with Reimer is whether he is a 31-year old goalie in decline as his save percentage suggests or if he is still at least a decent goalie just in need of a change of scenery. Canes fans might remember that the starting point for Mrazek entering the 2018-19 season was a similar restart hope.
What does this mean for Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic?
Though the crease is becoming full, I do not see this as ruling out a re-signing of Petr Mrazek. I think the bigger impact could be on Alex Nedeljkovic.
Though this does at least give the Hurricanes options on the roster for the start of the 2019-20 season, there is still room for Mrazek in a scenario that wants two experienced NHLers in 1A/1B roles and goes with patience and at least most of another year in the AHL for Nedeljkovic. I think the goal regardless would be to get Nedeljkovic some NHL starts but without the need to clear waivers that could be possible with a few call-up stints in the event of injuries of just to work him into a few games during a busy stretch.
In addition, at least the potential of just going with Reimer and Nedeljkovic maybe increases the Hurricanes negotiating position with Mrazek or any other goalie who loses out on the impending game of musical chairs but is garnering interest from the Hurricanes. I question whether it is viable, but in a game of chicken, the team can at least claim to have two goalies ready to at least start the 2019-20 season.
My 2 cents
From a numbers standpoint, I think this deal makes sense. Darling was a no-go under any situation in the Hurricanes organization, so the team did save $4.7 million from not having to buy him out. That suggests that the average cost per year for James Reimer (again dollars not salary cap) will be only about $750,000 per year. Reimer has his question marks (just like Mrazek last season), but the risk/reward ratio for that cost is a favorable one.
As far as the current goalie situation, I am not thrilled with Reimer and Nedeljkovic as a tandem with Forsberg in reserve. The Hurricanes were actually successful with two wild cards in Darling and Mrazek to start the year last year, but I am not a fan of just rolling dice every year and hoping for a run of luck.
I am fine with pushing Nedeljkovic into primarily an AHL role and re-signing Mrazek or another 1A/1B with NHL experience. My hope is that things would work out with injuries or short call-up stints to get Nedeljkovic 15-20 NHL starts which is not significantly less than if he was in Raleigh as a full-time backup. In addition, a regular workload in Charlotte would not be a negative.
What say you Canes fans?
1) Are you surprised/impressed that Don Waddell managed to offload Scott Darling’s contract without paying a fortune in futures to do it?
2) What are your thoughts on James Reimer? And would you be content to start the season with a James Reimer/Alex Nedeljkovic duo with Anton Forsberg in reserve?
3) What are your thoughts on still bringing in another proven NHL goalie either Petr Mrazek or someone else and pushing Nedeljkovic back to the AHL for at least most of the 2019-20 season?
4) Random other goalie thoughts?