Sunday’s trade of goalie James Reimer to Carolina for a draft pick and a goalie-to-be-bought-out-later saves the Panthers some money and indicates they expect to sign a goalie as soon as free agency opens Monday.
Most of the chatter this offseason says that will be two-time Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky possibly with Columbus teammate, left wing Artemi Panarin.
Also on the market are Robin Lehner, who won the Bill Masterton Trophy for perseverance and dedication to hockey after overcoming mental health issues to achieve a career year for the Islanders; and Semyon Varlamov, whose time in Colorado seems finished.
Over three seasons with the Panthers, Reimer was 53-32-16 with a 2.85 goals against average and .911 save percentage.
The Panthers have spent most of their existence failing to score playoff appearances because they couldn’t score goals to support above average to great goaltending. But, last season, myriad defensive lapses turned into goals against porous netminding by Reimer (.900 save percentage, 3.09 goals against average) and Roberto Luongo (.899 and 3.12).
Among goalies with at least 35 appearances, Reimer’s save percentage ranked 35th and Luongo’s ranked 36th. By comparison, Bobrovsky’s .913 save percentage was 16th and his goals against average was 2.58.
Luongo retired last week. Instead of having to buy out Reimer, the Panthers save a little cash and cap space in buying out 30-year-old minor leaguer Scott Darling. They’ve already placed Darling on waivers to prepare for the buyout.
The Panthers also received Buffalo’s sixth round pick in the 2020 Draft in the trade.
Adding Panarin, solid goaltending and three-time Stanley Cup-winning coach Joel Quenneville to a roster considered loaded with offensive talent wouldn’t just make the Panthers favorites to make the playoffs, but dark horse picks to do something significant once there.