Jonathan Bernier Reaction: Which Goalie Should the New Jersey Devils Target?
The Toronto Maple Leafs made a splash on Sunday when they acquired goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings for forward Matt Frattin, goaltender Ben Scrivens and a future second-round pick.
NHL (@NHL) June 24, 2013
While they were not considered one of the top three teams to land Bernier this offseason, the New Jersey Devils have been tied to trade rumors featuring the 24-year-old backup dating back to last year.
It is no secret that New Jersey needs to start looking for the goaltender of the future. Martin Brodeur and Johan Hedberg are in the final years of their contract, and retirement seems more and more likely for the 41-year-old goaltenders as they head into the 2013-2014 season.
Jeff Frazee, Keith Kinkaid, and Scott Wedgewood are considered the organization's top goaltending prospects, but none of them seem ready to take the reigns from Brodeur after this year.
New Jersey had the assets to make an offer to Los Angeles, considering that they hold the No. 9 pick in this year's draft, but GM Lou Lamoriello decided to stay quiet before free agency begins.
With Bernier now off the market and the organization's prospects not ready to make an impact at the NHL level, here are a few options the Devils could consider for the future.
With three quality goalies on their roster, the St. Louis Blues undoubtedly have the deepest and most successful goaltending unit in the NHL.
Of the three potential starters, Brian Elliot has emerged as the team's No. 1 goaltender, going 14-8-1 in 24 games. Rookie Jake Allen made a name for himself after the Blues were haunted by injuries, winning the first three starts of his career.
That leaves Jaroslav Halak, who is one season removed from winning the Jennings Trophy along with Elliot in 2011-2012.
Halak went 6-5-1 with a 2.14 GAA last season before suffering a groin injury. The 28-year-old netminder is 115-72-22 in his career and has seen postseason action in four different seasons.
With the emergence of Elliot as the No. 1 and Allen being NHL ready at such a young age, it wouldn't make sense to keep Halak on the roster if all three are healthy. Halak has one year left on his four-year contract and is due to make $4.5 million in 2013-2014.
The price tag is probably a bit high and injuries have haunted Halak over the past few years, but if he is 100 percent I think the money would be worth it. Halak could easily take over as a No. 1 goaltender in New Jersey and would benefit from splitting time with Brodeur next season.
The story of Ben Bishop is similar to Halak, but the Ottawa Senators actually took it a step further and dealt the goaltender to Tampa Bay.
Bishop was acquired in an attempt to solidify the goaltending issues that have emerged in Tampa Bay with Anders Lindback. Lindback was considered to be the future of the franchise when he was acquired from Nashville, but he has yet to live up to his full potential since the deal was made.
With two years left on his contract, the Devils would have to make a trade in order to land Bishop before 2015. He is only due $2.3 million per year for the next two seasons, so New Jersey could give him a raise without having to pay him Halak money.
The best thing to do would be to watch the goaltending battle in Tampa Bay closely next season and see who the odd man out is between Lindback and Bishop. Both of these goaltenders have a world of potential, but for now it seems that Bishop is the better option to go after.
It's important to be patient with these two. I'd expect a trade deadline deal if the Devils' goaltending tandem goes downhill in 2013-2014.
Here's an option that could potentially help right away.
Anton Khudobin has been fantastic as a backup for the Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins in his four-year career, going 14-5-1 with a 2.03 GAA. His role increased a bit this season in his first year as the backup to Tuuka Rask, appearing in 14 games and going 9-4-1 in that span.
Khudobin is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the Stanley Cup Final and many teams will likely be interested in signing him as either their backup or as a starter. Boston knows that he and Rask were keys to their success this season and will likely want to keep both of them going into next season.
Yes, Hedberg and Brodeur are both under contract for 2013-2014 and it is unlikely that they will sign a third goaltender for this year, but Khudobin is a much younger option that I think could help right away.
At age 27, he is in the prime of his career, and if the Devils were considering trading for Bernier with two goaltenders under contract, Khudobin should at least be considered.
The backup goaltender also only made $875,000 this season in Boston, so signing him to a new contract wouldn't eat up too much cap space. This also may be the best chance for the Devils to get a younger, quality goaltender without having to trade a player or draft pick.
We won't know the status of Khudobin until the playoffs are over, but he is certainly someone I would consider for the future.
The Anaheim Ducks are another team with two quality goaltenders that might be willing to make a move.
Jonas Hiller and Viktor Fasth were both spectacular in net this season and helped carry the Ducks to the second seed in the NHL playoffs.
Hiller had two more starts with 25 and went 15-6-4, while Fasth went 15-6-2 in 23 starts. Fasth, however, had four shutouts and a better GAA with 2.18.
Hiller has the most experience in Anaheim; he has spent the past six seasons with the organization dating back to 2007-2008. Fasth made his NHL debut last season after playing most of his career in Sweden.
It seems that if Anaheim had to get rid of one of them, it would be Fasth. Fasth has the smaller contract and would probably net the Ducks a higher return since he is the younger of the two goaltenders.
Out of all the goaltenders on this list, I think Fasth is a worst case scenario. Going after a goaltender already at the age of 30 with only one year of NHL experience is shaky, but New Jersey needs to make some sort of move either way.
The last time we saw James Reimer he was skating off the ice after a catastrophic loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
Whether or not that game sparked a deal to trade for Bernier is up in the air, but now he once again finds himself in the midst of a goaltending controversy.
Despite the move for Bernier, who is considered to be the next big thing in terms of goaltending, Reimer actually had the better season in 2013 while playing many more games. Todd Cordell of The Hockey Guys did a breakdown of their statistics from last season, and Reimer led the way in most categories.
The following quote from Reimer following the trade didn't make him look like the happiest player in the NHL, which could lead to an issue if Bernier wins the goalie competition in camp.
"It makes you feel doubted as a goalie," Reimer told SLAM! Sports. "You just have to focus on what you can control and believe in yourself."
Reimer is coming off his best season to date, with career bests in wins, shutouts, SV% and GAA in a shortened season.
The 25-year-old has one year left on his contract worth $1.6 million. It is unlikely he will re-sign with Toronto next summer, so the Leafs will want to try and trade him either this offseason or at the deadline.
It is unclear what exactly the Leafs will demand for Reimer, who has continued to grow as a goaltender over the past few seasons. If New Jersey only has to give up a few prospects, I make the move.