When the Florida Panthers open training camp next week, there will be a logjam in net.
As All-Star Roberto Luongo works his way back from offseason hip surgery, the Panthers brought in insurance, depth and perhaps their future starter as James Reimer and Reto Berra were brought to Florida in separate deals this summer.
Luongo has been on the ice working out for the past month and looks like he should be ready for the opener on Oct. 13 against the Devils.
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If Luongo is ready, it’s expected Reimer will open the season in Florida — he was signed to a five-year deal, after all — with Berra headed to the minors.
Regardless of how things work out, the Panthers are happy to have three goalies with NHL experience.
Reimer, 28, was a former starter in Toronto before being dealt to San Jose last year and has played in 215 games over the past six seasons.
Berra, 29, has appeared in 62 games over the past three seasons with Calgary and Colorado after spending most of his career playing in his native Switzerland.
The Panthers have their first practice of training camp on Friday, Sept. 23.
“I think it's important in the new NHL to have three goalies who can play,” Luongo said last month.
“We all saw what happened here a few years ago.
“Teams need three NHL guys because the schedule is grueling and there are a lot of games. Guys get hurt. It's important to have a third guy in case something happens and I'm not getting any younger.”
The Panthers and backup Al Montoya parted ways after two seasons when Florida traded Rocco Grimaldi to the Avs for Berra right before the draft.
It appeared Berra was going to serve as Luongo’s backup this season, only a few days later, the Panthers approached Reimer about a long-term deal.
Berra, general manager Tom Rowe later explained, was acquired as an insurance plan in case Luongo couldn’t start the season.
“There are always surprises in this business,” Berra said. “For me, I have to prove myself, work hard. We’ll see what happens. It was a surprise that just a couple days later they signed [Reimer]. But it doesn’t matter to me. I’m really happy to be here and I have my goals and I have to reach them.”
Reimer, like many, was taken aback when the Panthers approached after the news of the Berra acquisition broke.
“I didn’t know what their intention was,” Reimer said of the initial contact from the Panthers.
“They called, and we got to talking and there was interest there. We pursued it, and it looks like a good fit.”
The Panthers expect to see Reimer play more than Montoya did the past two seasons as they plan on giving Luongo more rest.
In the future, Reimer could eventually supplant Luongo — who turned 37 in April and is closing in on 1,000 NHL games played (including the playoffs) since joining the league 17 years ago — as the starter in Florida.
“Anytime you get a call in free agency, it’s great to see them have interest in you,’’ Reimer said after an informal skate at the Panthers’ training facility in Coral Springs on Tuesday. “When Florida called, I was excited. I saw what kind of team they had, you can see the potential. Things are really on the up-and-up and it’s fun to be a part of this.’’
Although it appears Luongo will be healthy by the time the season starts next month, Berra remains an insurance plan.
If Luongo doesn’t start the season, Berra will back up Reimer. If one of Florida’s goalies gets hurt during the season, Berra would be a short flight away from being with the Panthers.
“I’m really happy to be here, happy with the trade,’’ Berra said.
“It has always been my dream to wear swim shorts to the rink, do my work and then head to the beach. No, I’m kidding. But we have a great team and we saw it last year. I’m excited to be here. Camp is coming up and we’re going to get going. I’ve been waiting for this all summer.’’