Last week Jonathan Bernier, publically requested a trade from the Los Angeles Kings. Its tough to blame Bernier for wanting out of LA. The 2006, 11th overall draft pick is looking for a team where he can be a starter. After dominating in the QMJHL, and then the AHL, he has spent the last two seasons as Jonathan Quick’s backup. With Quick’s impressive 2011-12 season, even more impressive playoffs, Conn Smythe Trophy win, and new 10 year contract it is obvious that Bernier’s opportunities to start in Los Angeles are severely limited. He is a player with a ton of talent, and I believe he can be a starter in the NHL, he just needs an opportunity. Who is likely to give that opportunity?
Given the returns we have seen in the last two years for Semyon Varlamov and Anders Lindback in the last two years, the Kings should be asking for a pretty handsome return for the talented young goalie. The Kings are under no obligation to grant Bernier’s request, and as such they will be looking for a good deal. I believe that Dean Lombardi would rather have Bernier as insurance on his bench against a Quick injury, than trade him for scraps. So knowing that the asking price may be significatnt; what teams out there are most in need of a goaltender and might be willing to trade for Bernier?
When it comes to Bernier, I think there are three main teams who could be looking at him, however this is further complicated by the fact that at least two of those teams are probably also trying to figure out what is going on with Roberto Luongo.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs started last season with the inexperienced and unproven duo of James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson. This duo would implode, and poor goaltending was a huge reason for the Leafs late season crash. With Gustavsson in Detroit, The Leafs are currently looking at a duo of Reimer, and Ben Scrivens. I don’t think Brian Burke would be wise to put all his eggs in the basket with these two young kids again, no matter how much healthier Reimer apparently is, or how well Scrivens played for the Marlies in the AHL playoffs. While the Leafs need a goalie I think they will look for a more experienced one than Bernier, as entering the season with Bernier and one of Reimer/Scrivens still brings the same questions about inexperience, despite the fact that Bernier probably has the best pedigree of any of the three guys. I think the Leafs are much more likely to go for Luongo or another experienced goaltending option.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Columbus traded for Sergei Bobrovsky at the draft and still have Steve Mason. I have a feeling that the Blue Jackets believe they have their goaltending tandem and are not in the hunt for Bernier. I think this is a huge mistake. Neither Bobrovsky nor Mason have ever shown that they are capable of being consistent NHL starters. I think this team has the weakest goaltending in the entire NHL and they really have to do something if they want to avoid being a lottery team yet again. However Columbus management has never shown the ability to quickly and adequately address the team’s problems. Maybe they will prove me wrong, but I believe the Jackets will not be serious bidders for Bernier, and when you look at their goaltending situation, they really should be.
Chicago Blackhawks: Corey Crawford could not follow up on his impressive rookie season, and regressed last year. There are major questions about whether or not he is a capable number 1 goalie in the NHL. Backup Ray Emery still has issues with his degenerative hip condition, especially when he plays too often. The Hawks may want the more experienced Luongo, however picking him up would also require some creativity with the Salary Cap, and we all know that Luongo has never really impressed in the United Centre. Bernier’s age also makes him a good fit for a team whose stars are Toews, Kane, Keith and Seabrook. Bernier is of similar age to these players, and the core can grow together. For these reasons the Blackhawks may see Bernier as a great fit for their team, and a guy who can battle with and surpass Crawford for the number 1 job. I think the Hawks are the most likely destination for Bernier, if he is in fact traded. The team also has a nice stash of forward prospects that they could offer to the Kings in this deal.
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