Reimer excited about opportunity with Red Wings, chance to erase last season

Detroit News

Detroit — Goaltender James Reimer was excited to sign a free-agent contract with the Detroit Red Wings, but even Reimer admits there might have been one family member who matched his level of excitement.

Reimer’s older sister, Christy, can break out her Wings gear again.

“She’s a die-hard Red Wings fan,” Reimer said, after signing a one-year contract worth $1.5 million on July 1, the first day of unrestricted free agency. “Not to embarrass her in any way. She was (a big Wings fan), and probably is now again. It’s reborn. She was big in that (Wings dynasty) era.”

Reimer, 35, is a 14-year veteran of the NHL, having played most recently in San Jose (his second tour with the Sharks). There have been stops in Toronto, Carolina and Florida, so some hockey hotbeds (Toronto), and others not as much.

Reimer is excited about putting on an Original Six Wings sweater and playing in a city where hockey thrives.

“I’ve been blessed to play in this league for a long time, starting 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. The last couple years, I’ve been in smaller markets. There’s something exciting about coming back to a traditional hockey market and an Original Six team.

“There’s a ton of history, and that’s really exciting. Then just the direction of the team.”

Though the Wings have missed the playoffs the last seven consecutive seasons, there is considerable hope as training camp begins next week. General manager Steve Yzerman’s numerous free-agent and trade acquisitions have completely changed the look of the roster and filled apparent holes.

Reimer likes what the Wings are constructing.

“They probably haven’t had the success they would have wanted the last couple years, and that’s a symptom of the success they’ve had in the past and then a (salary-cap) world,” Reimer said. “But now they’re building, and Steve has put his fingerprints on the team, and everyone around the league sees what’s going on here and what they are doing.

“It’s exciting to be a part of that.”

Yzerman wanted to solidify the goaltending behind Ville Husso, who played a career-high 56 games last season and faltered statistically down the stretch, possibly from the heavy workload. Neither Alex Nedeljkovic or Magnus Hellberg (both of whom signed with Pittsburgh) provided consistent enough goaltending to allow Husso more rest.

Reimer and Alex Lyon, a free-agent signing from Florida, should provide the Wings with adequate depth.

Reimer was the No. 1 starter in San Jose the past two seasons. But he’s ready to go into this season doing whatever the Wings need, and he’s comfortable being a veteran backup.

“Your mindset is the same, no matter what the scenario is for the most part,” Reimer said. “How I’m built and probably most guys in the league are, is you’re a competitor and you want to be at the top of your game, no matter if you’re playing 10 games a year or 82.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s practice or morning skate, you’re bringing your best and you want to show your best.”

Reimer expects to be part of a productive tandem with Husso.

“When there’s a good relationship, that’s when you have the most success,” Reimer said. “Part of it is understanding that you’re both competitors, you both want to play, and it doesn’t matter if there’s an outright No. 1 and an outright No. 2. It’s also important to understand the main focus is the team and how to give the team the best chance to win every night.

“It’s the same thing for me coming in with Huss. We’re going to compete against each other and we’re going to enjoy life and enjoy competing against each other. As much as we’re competing for the net and we both want it, you’re coming in to play as much as I can, but it’s to help him play as best as he can, too, and to push him and enable him to play his best. The goal is for both guys to be playing their best. We’re going to compete and have fun and push each other and drive each other to be our best.”

Reimer played 43 games last season on a weak Sharks team, with a 12-21-8 record, 3.48 goals-against average and .890 save percentage. It was the first time in Reimer’s career he finished with a sub-.900 save percentage.

“The mindset is every single year, you should come in with something to prove, whether you’ve had a good year or a bad year,” Reimer said. “The stats didn’t reflect well. But it’s also one of those things where I played some really good hockey, I felt like I was a better goalie at the end of the year than the start of the year. When things don’t go your way, it’s hard. But, I felt like I learned and grew a lot and improved my game.

“So, I’m excited to continue to work on it, to have that drive to get after it this year and make it a great year.”

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter/X: @tkulfan

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