Mrazek, who turns 29 later this month, was off to an outstanding start this season with a league-leading .955 save percentage and 0.99 goals-against average in his first four games. While numbers like that would be almost impossible to maintain, he was the obvious choice to take on the majority of work in Carolina, especially after the strong performance he put on in last summer’s playoffs. Mrazek has always been a streaky netminder, but with unrestricted free agency coming up again after this season, playing well was more important than ever.
Now he’ll hand the net over to James Reimer, who has been a much more consistent, if still underwhelming, option throughout his career. His .915 save percentage this season sits almost exactly where his career numbers lie, while he too played well in last year’s postseason. Having a goaltender with 367 career starts as a backup plan is better than nothing, though, obviously, the team would rather have a healthy Mrazek competing for the net.
For now, Alex Nedeljkovic will serve as the backup, though he has still not seen the ice this season, and the Hurricanes have always appeared hesitant to really give him some run at the NHL level. The 2019 AHL Goaltender of the Year has just six NHL appearances and cleared waivers earlier this season when exposed to the rest of the league. Nedeljkovic doesn’t have the prototypical size for an NHL netminder, standing just 6 feet tall, but has stopped the puck at every level so far. Given he is a potential Group VI unrestricted free agent this summer as well, this chance could be a showcase for his future.