It’s not exactly breaking news that Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier will be traded soon. The 25-year-old restricted free agent has a goals against average of 2.36 and a save percentage of .912 in 62 career games and posted a 9-3-1 record with a 1.88 GAA and .922 Sv% in quality minutes while spelling Jonathan Quick in 2012-13. He has previously expressed his desire to be a starting goaltender in the National Hockey League, an ascendance that would represent the natural progression in his professional career.
According to a Kings source cited in a report on Tuesday by Tim Panaccio of CSNPhilly.com, 12 teams are involved in discussions over Bernier, with the source saying “Basically, we’re running an auction.”
Those 12 teams have been whittled down to a more manageable handful, though the CSNPhilly.com report did express a sentiment that high demand is arising for Bernier’s services.
Given the number of Bernier suitors, Lombardi should get maximum value in return for a young goalie many consider capable of being a No. 1 starter.
The price will likely be pushed higher than what the Flyers might offer, say Matt Read, who will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Kings are looking for help on the wing.
That 20-year-old Sean Couturier, the eighth overall pick of the 2011 draft, was reported by Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday to be part of trade discussions indicates that a seller’s market could be developing and throws credence behind the “maximum value” referred to in the CSNPhilly.com report.
It is still somewhat surprising to learn of the discussion of Couturier, a skilled two-way center who would command a 1.375 million dollar cap hit before becoming a restricted free agent one year from now. The Kings are flush at the position with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser regularly taking shifts at center, with Jeff Carter and Trevor Lewis also capable of slotting in when necessary.
It is clear that the salary cap-restrained Kings need a left wing, and Matt Read, who can play on either wing, is an affordable, productive option who will make $900,000 in 2013-14 before becoming a free agent.
The Flyers are also suffering from a lack of production and depth on the left side – Simon Gagne and Ruslan Fedotenko are free agents, while Danny Briere will be bought out of his contract – which could create some questions on Philadelphia’s end.
There are also other teams making a push to land the Kings’ goaltender.
The 5 teams I believe are in the mix, to varying degrees, on Jonathan Bernier: Florida, Minny, Philly, Tor and NYI…
— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) June 19, 2013
Matt Frattin of Toronto has been a player who has been linked to Los Angeles in previous trade discussions and was a name mentioned on TSN’s Insider Trading segment on Tuesday.
The New York Islanders are also viewed to have expressed interest in Bernier, while Minnesota could be kicking the tires on a Bernier deal despite mutual interest between the club and 35-year-old unrestricted free agent Niklas Backstrom in reaching a contract extension. Florida is still in the process of determining whether highly touted Jakob Markstrom is the immediate answer in net.
Potential Western Conference trade targets are much less likely to receive Bernier in a trade. Calgary, Edmonton and perhaps Phoenix would be among the teams interested in Bernier, though Los Angeles would be highly disinclined to deal Bernier within the division.
A lack of available standout goaltenders this summer, as well as the circumstances surrounding them, could also indicate a potential sturdy return for Bernier. Phoenix’s Mike Smith is the top name available and should command an annual salary reflective of that. At 31, he is the youngest impact goalie approaching unrestricted free agency. Backstrom, Ray Emery, Evgeni Nabokov, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jose Theodore and Mathieu Garon are also UFAs. It is unclear whether UFA Tim Thomas, 39, will play in the NHL in 2013-14 after sitting out this season.
Through trade, Buffalo’s Ryan Miller appears to be available, but carries a 6.25 million dollar cap hit with only one year remaining on his contract. Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo has a 5.33 million dollar cap hit through 2022, when he will be 43.
This gives a sense of why Bernier, who turns 25 in August and will necessitate a lower cap hit than Smith and Backstrom, is drawing heavy interest.
For a Bernier-to-Philadelphia trade to work, the Flyers would need to use their second amnesty buyout on Ilya Bryzgalov. There were conflicting reports late Tuesday whether the Bryzgalov buyout would occur, though Panaccio’s communications with general manager Paul Holmgren in which an assertion by Bryzgalov’s agent, Rich Winter, that his client had been told he would not be bought out, was refuted.
Paul Holmgren to CSN: "I didn't assure Ritch Winter of anything. When the time comes to do our business we will do whatever is best …
— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) June 19, 2013
Homer: "…for our hockey team."
— Tim Panaccio (@tpanotchCSN) June 19, 2013
While Read appears to be an adequate fit, the inclusion of Couturier’s name in discussions is a positive indication that the return for Bernier may be higher than it would have been in previous Bernier negotiations.
Lombardi chose not to trade Bernier last off-season or during the previous two trading deadlines, and his patience, along with Bernier’s quality contributions in 2012-13, has increased the goaltender’s value. Considering frequent trading partner Philadelphia is in need of a cost-effective starting goaltender, has inexpensive and productive young offensive pieces to exchange and is being challenged by several other suitors, it appears as though the Kings shouldn’t worry about getting less than market value for Bernier.
For added perspective, here’s my FOXSportsWest.com Bernier analysis from July, 2012