Sports

Hurricanes trade for goalie James Reimer, send Scott Darling to Panthers

Carolina Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said Saturday he was confident the Canes would find a goalie.

On Sunday, the Canes made a trade for one: James Reimer, from the Florida Panthers.

Waddell indicated Sunday that the deal for Reimer did not mean the Canes had given up on re-signing goalie Petr Mrazek -- “Not at all,” he said. Nor does it preclude the Canes having interest in other goalies who may be available in NHL free agency, which begins Monday.

The Canes, in making the trade, did answer the question of what they would do with goalie Scott Darling. He was sent to the Panthers along with a sixth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Darling was then placed on unconditional waivers by the Panthers, who plan to buy out his contract.

The Canes had hoped to re-sign Mrazek and Curtis McElhinney after reaching the playoffs last season. Waddell ruled out McElhinney on Saturday -- “He’ll definitely be somewhere else,” he said -- but said talks continued with Mrazek. Both will become unrestricted free agents on Monday.

Reimer, 31, is coming off a season with the Panthers that had him post a 13-12-5 record with a 3.09 goals-against average and .900 save percentage. He has two years left on a contract that pays him $3.4 million a year, according to CapFriendly.com, which tracks player contracts.

Reimer, who has dealt with some injury issues in his career, has played 338 NHL games with Toronto, San Jose and Florida, with an overall record of 144-120-39, career 2.81 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.

The Canes believed they had brought in a No. 1 goalie in Darling, trading for him in 2017 under former general manager Ron Francis and signing him to a four-year contract. That move failed as Darling had a 15-29-9 record, 3.20 GAA and .887 save percentage in two seasons with the Hurricanes.

Darling’s hamstring injury in the final preseason game last fall resulted in the Canes picking up McElhinney off waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Darling later returned and started eight games but was not effective as Mrazek and McElhinney split the workload during the season and playoffs.

Waddell said Saturday the Canes were speaking to Mrazek “daily, hourly,” which probably wasn’t much of a stretch. Canes coach Rod Brind’Amour said he also had been in touch with the Czech goalie.

“In my opinion as long as the organization is trying to get these guys signed and offering them fair deals then I feel good about it,” Brind’Amour said. “Then it’s up to them. They have to make the decisions they have to make for them and their families.”

The Canes have other UFAs and none more important than captain Justin Williams. At 37, Williams must decide if the time has come to retire or if he wants to return to the Canes and make another run at the playoffs and the Cup.

“It’s really his decision and it’s a unique kind of position to be in,” Brind’Amour said. “That’s going to be an interesting one and I hope he comes back.”

The Canes plan to have Alex Nedeljkovic, the AHL goaltender of the year with the Charlotte Checkers in 2018-19, and Anton Forsberg, recently acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks, compete to be the backup goalie.

Looking to Monday and free agency, other than the goalie situation Waddell said it’s a matter of “tweaking” and adding some depth players.

“I don’t see anything major at this point,” Waddell said. “There are some high-profile (UFA) guys out there but after that there just aren’t that many guys we feel are going to push our guys out.”

Brind’Amour said he has been a part of the free-agent and trade discussions with management.

“They know where I stand on our guys,” Brind’Amour said. “My priority is our guys (coming) back. If that can’t happen then what’s the next step. I appreciate the fact I’m involved with that.

“At the end of the day we’re going to have a real good team when September rolls around and we get all the pieces put together.”

In more than 30 years at The N&O, Chip Alexander has covered the N.C. State, UNC, Duke and East Carolina beats, and now is in his 11th season on the Carolina Hurricanes beat. Alexander, who has won numerous writing awards at the state and national level, covered the Hurricanes’ move to North Carolina in 1997 and was a part of The N&O’s coverage of the Canes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run.
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