Goaltender James Reimer’s career has followed a similar if sometimes frustrating path: He goes to an NHL city, does his job pretty darn well, but inevitably moves on. He tends to be “The Guy” while teams look for another, newer Guy.
Presently, he’s in his second stint with the San Jose Sharks, and all he’s done is find a way to keep San Jose in the playoff mix in the early season. He hasn’t officially been anointed the Sharks’ “Guy,” but he should be and is clearly their best chance to win games. Call it the “Reimer bounce” – and the Sharks should follow along and see where it takes them.
Reimer and Adin Hill have split starting assignments pretty much down the middle this season, although Reimer has been playing more recently and Hill has entered COVID-19 protocols. Reimer didn’t begin the season as the starter, but he’s been there when his team needs him. Even when the stats look bad, he’s found a way to get the victory.
He allowed seven goals in his last outing on Dec. 28 against the Arizona Coyotes, although it was far from all his fault. The Coyotes have the worst record in the NHL, and the Sharks were playing at home, so this wasn’t a great performance. But Reimer stuck with it, won the shootout, and earned the two points in the highest-scoring game in the league this season.
Sharks coach Bob Boughner told Sharks.com after the Arizona win, “It was important that (Reimer) battled through that game. I don’t think he was at his best, but he didn’t have a lot of support.” (from ‘”Postgame vs. Arizona,” NHL.com, December 28, 2021).
San Jose is 16-14-1, and Reimer is 10-5-2 in the crease. His goals-against average (GAA) crept over two goals after the Arizona outing but remains excellent. As Boughner said in his comments, “he battled through it,” which pretty much describes his 12-year career.
Reimer Is a Stable, Reliable Presence
He certainly could never be described as a flashy goalie and tends to work in a standard butterfly style. The word “workmanlike” would be accurate, a player that just gets down to work.
A fourth-round draft pick by Toronto in 2006, Reimer, 33, played a solid six seasons with the Maple Leafs, and at times was the top goalie with good statistics. During the 2005-06 season, they’d trade him to the Sharks, who needed a backup for Martin Jones, in a multi-player deal. Reimer was very good (6-2-0, .938 save percentage (SV%), 1.62 GAA, but he moved on and signed on as a free agent with the Florida Panthers the following season.
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Reimer spent three seasons with the Panthers, the final two with Boughner as head coach. Then he was traded again, this time to the Carolina Hurricanes. He had a 15-5-2 mark in his second year with Carolina in 2020-21 but was relegated to watching from the press box by the end of the season behind Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic.
He signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with a $2.25 million average annual value (AAV) to reunite with Boughner in San Jose in the offseason. The Sharks bought out the rest of Jones’ contract, traded to obtain Adin Hill from Arizona, and paired the younger goaltender with the veteran Reimer.
Hill May Be the Future
Hill, 25, started four of the first five games, winning three of them. He has struggled since the strong start, and Reimer has once again become the person his team calls upon when they need a steady hand.
While Reimer has earned most of the playing time, that’s not to say that Hill should be off in a corner gathering dust. He has a third-round pick for the Coyotes in 2015, and the Sharks traded goalie prospect Josef Korenar and a 2022 second-round pick to the Coyotes for Hill and a 2022 seventh-round choice. He had played only 49 NHL games before coming to San Jose and has certainly played well at times. The front office is very high on him, and they signed him to a two-year, $4.35 million contract worth a $2.175 AAV. He could be the Sharks’ goaltender of the future.
But the present should be about winning and making the playoffs. Despite a shaky December so far, the Sharks have the talent to make a nice run. Like every team in the league, those chances will be greatly affected by injuries and COVID-19 protocols. It’s tougher than ever to predict what kind of team you’ll put on the ice from game to game.
So far, one of the most predictable things about the Sharks has been Reimer. He’s not fancy and probably won’t show up on ESPN frequently. What he does do is keep you in games, he’s reliable, and he wins a lot. You know what you will get from him night to night, which is a luxury coaches don’t always have with younger goalies.
That makes him “The Guy” for the Sharks, at least for now.
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Scott Linesburgh has been a sports writer for 35 years, and has spent more than 15 years as a pro hockey beat writer. He has covered some of the biggest sporting events, including the Super Bowl and Indianapolis 500. A native of Long Island, N.Y. who grew up as an Islander fan, Scott cover the San Jose Sharks for THW, and is always looking for the stories beyond the box scores.