Much like the Vancouver Canucks, the Los Angeles Kings have two goalies. One is established as an NHL veteran, and the other is a younger, more unknown talent who seemingly won't ever get a chance to play consistently in a black and silver uniform thanks to the Conn Smythe winner ahead of him.
So what does a team like the Kings do with that second goalie, especially when unlike the Canucks, he doesn't come with a giant, trade-hindering contract? Well, you shop him around and look for the right deal. And if you're the Philadelphia Flyers, contemplating the though of buying your struggling, overpaid goalie out of his long-term contract, you sniff the waters a bit.
Is Paul Holmgren sniffing around at Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier?
@ericsuperfan think Bryzgalov gets bought out and Bernier for Matt Read is made. Was discussed at deadline as I hear.— Dennis Bernstein (@DennisTFP) June 8, 2013
Bernstein is an LA-based writer, so even though he writes for The Fourth Period -- a site that positions themselves as a rumor aggregator -- there's probably at least some credence to the rumor that Matt Read could be traded for Jonathan Bernier. Add Bob McKenzie's report from Saturday night about "expecting" the Flyers to buyout Bryzgalov, and well, yes, that does smell like smoke.
It's not hard to imagine the Flyers offering Read for Bernier. When you consider the Flyers' organizational strength at forward, the fact that Read's trade value will likely never be as high as it is right now and that Bernier could theoretically (hopefully?) be the young goalie the team finally locks down for years at a relatively affordable price tag, it all makes sense.
Does it make as much sense from the Kings perspective? Not at face value.
Bernier is more valuable than just Matt Read, and even if the Flyers are offering that, another team will probably offer more. The Flyers would certainly have to up the price tag in a trade.
At the same time, Bernier is a restricted free agent this summer. The Kings would need to extend a qualifying offer of $1.525 million this summer to keep him under their control and will almost certainly do that, but there's nothing forcing him to accept that offer.
What's stopping a team like the Flyers from sending Bernier an offer sheet? Knowing he's stuck in Los Angeles behind Jonathan Quick for the foreseeable future, there's plenty of incentive for Bernier to accept an offer sheet from another team. He's 24 years old and wants to play. An offer sheet would give him more money and the opportunity to play. Makes a ton of sense.
It wouldn't even have to be a long-term offer sheet from the Flyers, and they wouldn't have to break the bank at all. They'd just need to give Bernier enough incentive to leave Los Angeles while giving the Kings too much of a disincentive to match the offer.
According to the RFA compensation scale in the new CBA, the Flyers could offer Bernier up to $3.364 million per season and they'd only owe the Kings a single, measly second round pick in return. That kind of money, along with a Bryzgalov buyout, would save the Flyers $2.3 million against the cap immediately next season and would free of them of the uncertainty that comes with giving long-term deals to goaltenders. If things didn't work out with Bernier, they wouldn't be tied to him for the next decade. They'd be tied to him until the summer of 2016, and if push came to shove, a $3.3 million cap hit is certainly tradable -- unlike Bryz's contract.
Would that be enough to lure Bernier from L.A.? I'd think so. Again, there's virtually no long-term opportunity for him in Los Angeles and he wants to play now. He'd be earning nearly $2 million more than the Kings would be giving him and he'd have an opportunity to show what he's made of with a team that would probably give him 60 starts next year.
Would it be enough to keep the Kings from matching? Dean Lombardi and Co. already have Quick locked up for $5.8 million per season through 2023. They probably wouldn't be all that comfortable with paying Bernier over $3 million for the next three years. With a $64 million cap, paying your goalies nearly $9 million per season is outrageous. No team in the league, as far as I can think, pays their goaltenders that much money.
If the Flyers stretch the offer to Bernier out through the summer of 2015-16, they'd effect Lombardi's negotiations with Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll, Dustin Brown, Dustin Penner, Willie Mitchell, Robyn Regehr and Matt Greene, all of whom are UFAs in the next three years. With Jeff Carter (heh), Mike Richards (heh) and Drew Doughty locked up long term, and Anze Kopitar up for a new contract before 2017, a Bernier offer sheet executed properly could really put the Kings in a tough spot. They can't necessarily afford to commit that kind of money to the goalie position, even if at present it looks like they're in a good position with the salary cap.
Long story short: The Flyers could buyout Ilya Bryzgalov's long-term deal, sign Bernier to an offer sheet that both saves them several million in cap dollars for the next few years AND rid themselves of a long-term commitment to goaltending, the most volatile position in hockey.
This reality might push the Kings to shoot for a trade, and that's probably where the Matt Read talk comes up. The Flyers could always get out bid by another team -- whether via trade or offer sheet -- and that brings us to the final question. What is Jonathan Bernier worth?
Is he worth $3.3 million per season Is he worth more than that in the event that another team offered him more and the Flyers would have to up the price a bit? Is he worth Matt Read? More than Matt Read? It's a question without an easy answer. Bernier has played no more than 25 games in a single NHL season. He's played 62 games total. It's simply not a big enough sample to have any gauge of his true talent, even if all the scouts all say that he has the potential to be a No. 1 guy in the NHL for years to come. He's yet to prove that.
His value is based on the market around him, and since he'll be an RFA, that market is even more complicated than it normally would be. We don't know how much Jonathan Bernier is worth, nor do we really know exactly what it would cost to get him. But the option is there, and there's a path for Paul Holmgren to walk down if he wants to explore a bit.