Why James Reimer should help Detroit Red Wings end NHL playoff drought

Detroit Free Press

James Reimer seemed inordinately excited about joining the Detroit Red Wings, where he will be tasked with helping them push towards ending their playoff drought.

Reimer was general manager Steve Yzerman’s free-agent answer to the question of who would partner in net with starter Ville Husso, after the team parted with Alex Nedeljkovic and Magnus Hellberg, who both struggled to hold down the job last season. Reimer, 35, has been in the NHL for 14 seasons, and after spending nearly a decade playing in San Jose, Florida and Carolina, is stoked to come full circle, career-wise. That was evident in appearance when he spoke the day after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract.

“I’ve been blessed to play in this league for a long time and I started off in Toronto, which is a big hockey market and there’s lots of buzz,” Reimer said. “There’s a certain excitement when you play in a big market. Then the last couple years I’ve been in smaller markets. So there is something exciting about coming back to a traditional hockey market and an Original Six team.

“There’s a ton of history and what not. That’s really exciting. And then just the direction of the team — they probably haven’t had the success that they would have wanted the last couple years and I think that’s a symptom of the success they’ve had in the past and then a a cap world. But I think now they’re building, Steve has put his fingerprint on the team and I think everyone around the league sees what’s going on here and what they are doing and I think it is exciting to be a part of that.”

And that was before Yzerman traded for Alex DeBrincat, giving the Wings the 40-goal scorer they have lacked.

The Wings look stronger up front for having added DeBrincat. It is on Reimer to provide steady goaltending, or as he put it, “Give this team the best puck-stopping possible.”

The Wings got that past the first half last season from Husso, but the 28-year-old sagged down the stretch as he dealt with playing a career-high 56 games, 16 above his previous high. Hellberg had just six career NHL games of experience when the Wings claimed him off waivers in November, and Nedeljkovic had one season of topping 50 games on his resume.

Reimer played at least 40 games each of the past two seasons with the San Jose Sharks. (His career numbers: 204-169-61 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.) Reimer started 46 games in 2021-22 and 41 last season.

A new hope: How Alex DeBrincat plans to grow Red Wings into a competitive team

“The mindset is the same,” he said. “You’re a competitor and you want to be at the top of your game whether you are playing 10 games a year or 82. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Ville; he’s a heck of a goalie and I am looking forward to competing together with him and help the squad as best we can.”

The Wings have not advanced to the playoffs since 2016, but their trajectory steadily has risen, with 35 victories and 80 points last season. Even as they haven’t quite emerged from the rebuild yet, they are an appealing destination.

“I could go on for a long time about the amount of good things that I’ve heard about the organization and the ownership and the team,” Reimer said. “You’re hard pressed to find anybody in the league who says anything bad about Detroit, so I thought it could be a good fit.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames.

Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from  Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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