Saturday, June 22, 2013

Stay Away From Bernier

Yesterday, it was reported that there were three teams left in the sweepstakes for Los Angeles Kings backup goaltender, Jonathan Bernier. The Wild were one of those teams. They are joined by the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers, as the teams who Los Angeles has their list narrowed down to.

Bernier has been the Kings backup netminder for three seasons. This past season he played in 14 games (not a bad number considering the short 48 game season), and posted a 9-3-2 record with a 1.88 GAA and .922 save percentage (the last two stats were better than the Kings number one starter, Jonathan Quick). To compare, Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom had a 2.48 GAA and .909 save percentage, but, the Kings defensive core is a bit more polished than the Wild's.

The Kings are selling Bernier as a starting goalie. So that means LA will be asking for some kind of package involving a goalie prospect to backup Quick, and some combination of top prospects and high draft picks.

Clearly, the Wild are looking at backup options for if/when they should let Niklas Backstrom leave via free agency. They do not have the confidence in Josh Harding to take over as the number one, and they feel that Darcy Kuemper is still a year or two away from playing regularly in the NHL.

The fact remains, that the other two teams in this race (Toronto and Philadelphia) are very desperate for a goalie like Bernier. The Wild are desperate for a starter too, but not on the level like the two other squads (see Ilya Bryzgalov, James Reimer, and the word woof). Both those teams have the means for a deal like this, and would be more willing to part with their key prospects/draft picks to add Bernier.

Minnesota does not have its first round pick in this year's draft, as it was traded to Buffalo in the Jason Pominville deal. They used one of their top two goalie prospects, Matt Hackett, in the same deal, clearing the way for Kuemper to be the goalie of the future. Johan Gustafsson will be in the AHL next year, but he is a ways off from the NHL too. The prospect pool is still deep, but the type of prospects LA would want from Minnesota should clearly be stamped as "untouchable" (i.e. Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Jonas Brodin, and Matt Dumba).

Bottomline: Toronto, Philadelphia, and Minnesota are locked into a bidding war for Bernier. At some point, the two teams from the East will simply take the bidding past a point that will be beyond ridiculous. GM Chuck Fletcher needs to stop once it goes beyond that point. He should not part with Kuemper, any one of the "untouchable" prospects, and their draft picks (in fact, the Wild should be looking to move back into the first round).

Refrain from acquiring Jonathan Bernier. Get Backstrom to re-sign at a lower price, or find someone else to take the starting job (Marc-Andre Fleury is available). The asking price is too great.

There may not be a better option than Bernier, but you can find cheaper options who can still get the job done...

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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