Jonathan Bernier Trade Speculation: 7 Possible Destinations for LA Kings' Backup
I spoke with Dean at the end of the season, and he told me he can keep me there but also feels he kind of owed me the chance to be somewhere else (as a starter). So I guess we'll know in the next few weeks...I want to get to the next level to get a real chance to hopefully be a No. 1 somewhere...I'm sure the Kings will make the right decision. If I'm staying there, I'm staying there. If not, I'm ready for the challenge.
Bernier may not have the chance to "stay there" in Los Angeles, as CapGeek shows that the Kings only have nine forwards and five defenseman signed to the NHL roster for next season with just around $7.6 million in cap space.
As a restricted free agent, Bernier could command just under half of that on his next paycheck, so it may make more sense for Dean Lombardi to move him now.
Here are seven NHL teams that the Kings' backup goaltender could start for next season.
These teams will be ranked from lowest to highest per the NHL.com report for how much they need a No. 1 goaltender for the coming season.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
To this suggestion, one can purely laugh at the idea of trading Bernier to Toronto after James Reimer showed that he can carry the load for the Maple Leafs.
Although the Leafs faltered down the stretch in Game 7, "Optimus-Reim" dug in deep in Game 5 and Game 6 to pull the Leafs back from a 3-1 series deficit to tie the series.
The Leafs lost two overtime games in that series, and either one could have propelled them to a win, meaning no one can blame that series loss on the Leafs' young goaltender.
Jonathan Bernier doesn't really have a spot in Toronto at this point.
6. Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild proved one thing this season: Their goaltending is the least of their concerns.
Many hockey pundits may dismiss the effort of Josh Harding in the playoffs because he has MS and might not be a factor over the long term.
The fact remains that Harding wants to play and wants to play a big role in the Wild's future, per Dan Myers of NHL.com.
Combine Harding's desire to play with the fact that starting goalie Niklas Backstrom could return to the Wild if he took a pay cut, and it would be a mistake to expect Jonathan Bernier to want to sign with Minnesota this season.
Sure, Bernier could fill in and likely gain a starting role over Harding if he suffered any setbacks with MS, but Bernier likely wants a job that is all his and not something he wouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt about.
Bernier would be a cheaper option than retaining Nicklas Backstrom and his $6 million cap hit per CapGeek, but expect Bernier to go somewhere where he can have the No. 1 job be his to lose.
5. New York Islanders
Bernier would be competing with Evgeni Nabokov, whose 23-11-7 record, .910 save percentage and 2.50 GAA got the Islanders to the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.
Although Bernier is the goalie of the future in most cases, the Islanders would be reluctant to turn their goaltending duties over to a player who has played just 62 NHL regular-season games over parts of five seasons.
Nabokov has played in 646 regular-season games at the NHL level.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers' goaltending situation is a mess.
Ilya Bryzgalov had the worst statistical season of his career in terms of GAA (2.79), save percentage (.900) and shutouts (one).
But according to Flyers GM Paul Holmgren in Pierre Lebrun's article on ESPN, there is no basis for buyout talk of Ilya Bryzgalov and his nine-year, $51 million contract.
Puzzling, but it is a $51 million contract—and per CapGeek, would be insanely long and drawn out to buy out Bryzgalov right now.
Plus, Philadelphia is where goalies' careers have gone down the tube recently. Jonathan Bernier doesn't need that; he hasn't even been playing long enough to be an unrestricted free agent yet.
Keep looking, Mr. Bernier.
3. Florida Panthers
Now, Bernier would likely get the benefit of a doubt over Jacob Markstrom, who put up a 8-14-1 record with a 3.22 GAA and a .901 save percentage.
But one must ask themselves, with a team like the Florida Panthers in front of him, would Bernier really play much better than Markstrom?
A team on the rebuild—and frankly one that has been "rebuilding" for a while now—is most likely not going to be the first choice on Bernier's radar.
2. New Jersey Devils
The New Jersey Devils were not on the five-team list that was on NHL.com as potential destinations for Jonathan Bernier, but Bernier should look over his options and realize that playing for New Jersey could be his chance to start over the long run.
This past season marked only the third time that Martin Brodeur has missed the playoffs in his 20-year NHL career.
Granted, Brodeur still may come back for another season, so for Jonathan Bernier, it would be just like backing up Jonathan Quick all over again.
But Bernier really has a chance to take over the starting goaltender position for the New Jersey Devils if Brodeur retires either this offseason or next. Brodeur has one season left on his current deal.
The Devils have two goalies signed already in Johan Hedberg and Brodeur, but Hedberg and Brodeur are 40 and 41, respectively, meaning the goaltending cupboard will be bare in a season or less.
Trusting Keith Kinkaid and Jeff Frazee (who have each played in one NHL game) to take over the reins after this season would be nothing short of foolish and dangerous.
1. Calgary Flames
The Calgary Flames are another team in the middle of a rebuild.
According to a report on NHL.com, that rebuild might include a new face in goal as well, as Miikka Kiprusoff is leaning towards retirement.
The Flames have three first-round picks this year; certainly one of those combined with a prospect would be enough to get the Kings to trade Jonathan Bernier's rights to Calgary.
If Jonathan Bernier chose to, he could be the face of a Calgary rebuild for years to come, as Calgary is finally in a place to throw around some money in free agency this year with over $19 million in cap space, per CapGeek.
Bernier would have to wait a little bit longer for success than he would in some of the other places on the list, but if Flames' GM Jay Feaster kicks the rebuild into high gear, the Flames could challenge for a playoff position within the next couple of seasons.
Of course, Bernier isn't guaranteed a trade by any means.
But with the Kings' salary-cap space being the way it is, there just doesn't really seem to be a plausible way that they can keep Bernier and sign the players for next season that also need to be signed.
Bernier won't likely have a say in where he ends up getting traded, but he had better hope that it is somewhere he likes, as that team will have exclusive negotiating rights with him since he is only a restricted free agent at this point.
All stats via NHL.com unless otherwise noted.
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