Published on June 19th, 2013 | by James Duffy0
As we all know, the Islanders are in the market for a goalie this offseason, and a goal tender is probably their top priority, maybe other than a winger to play with JT. Names have been circulating since the offseason began, with rumors of a Luongo trade taking center stage early on, and guys like Mike Smith heading into free agency. For me and many others, the dream goalie for the Islanders right now is the Kings Jonathan Bernier, a restricted free agent, who is almost definitely on the move.
Just a moment on the state of the net on Long Island right now. Evgeni Nabokov, who played between the pipes all season, is a solid goalie. Don’t get me wrong, I love Nabby, but a 37 year old is not the answer to start 60 games next season. Nabby should be brought back without a doubt, but hopefully will get used to wearing a cap on the bench as often as he has his mask on. Within the organization, no real answer presents itself either. Can Poulin or Nilsson be counted on to split time with Nabby next year?
But back to topic. Bernier seems like the perfect fit to come to the Island. The 24 year old has no future in LA (see Quick, Jonathan), and the Kings general manager is actively shopping Bernier. In the limited time Bernier has had behind an all-star goalie, he has shown serious ability. Last season he had a 9-3-1 record, allowing 1.88 goals a game. The kid has undeniable talent, and would fit right in with the developing, surging Islanders. In his first season or two here, Bernier could split time with Nabby, and then take over after the maturation, and become the NHL starting goalie he is capable of being. He would grow with the team and become part of a young talented core, already featuring the likes of Tavares, Okposo, Bailey, Cizikas and others.
So as of right now, not many teams have a glaring hole in net. The Islanders are joined by Panthers, Leafs, Flyers and Wild as teams that emerged as suitors for Bernier. Calgary, Phoenix and Edmonton could use some help in net, but their chances of Bernier being sent inside the division are slim to none.
So logically, one of the Eastern Conference teams has a leg up in the running. The Panthers clearly could have used a goalie this season, with 3 guys in net for significant portions of the season. Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen are both getting up there in age and had abysmal seasons. Their 3rd goalie is the 23 year old Jacob Markstrom, who, although being subpar this season, is the future in net for Florida. He got his first real taste of playing time this season, and was 8-14-1 with a 3.22 GAA. Again, not too good, but he is still the guy who the Panthers plan to have in net for a while to come.
Then there are the Flyers. With their goalie situation a little up in the air with a possible Bryz buyout, they could use Bernier. With a guy like Sean Couturier to throw into a deal, they could probably put out a great package to LA if they wanted to pursue Bernier. Recently, it has been rumored that they will in fact not buy out their current goalie, so it seems they’re out of the running. Even if they do buy out Bryzgalov, the Flyers are an old expensive team and the Streit signing furthered that. Beyond that, the Flyers are also involved in trade rumors for Bobby Ryan, which would hurt their chances of acquiring Bernier as well.
Right now, if things stay as they are, the Islanders and Maple Leafs are the top suitors for Bernier. I find it really hard to believe that the Leafs will give up on James Reimer after the season he had. His statline was 19-8-5, .924 SV% and 2.46 GAA. Reimer is young as well, only a year older than Bernier. I get that every team is always looking to upgrade, but I don’t buy that the Leafs will give up much to lock up a player at a filled position.
So then we come to the Islanders, who look like the top Bernier suitors in my opinion. Like I outlined earlier, the situation for the Islanders net is a bit up in the air. Bernier could come in, split time with Nabokov, who should be brought back on a 1-2 year contract, then take the reigns when Nabbys time is done. Its a perfect fit.
The asking price for the LA goalie right now looks to be a good prospect, and maybe a draft pick along with him. And would you look at that, the Islanders have their own good prospect, who was rumored to be disgruntled with the Isles. Nino Niederriter reportedly asked for a trade a few months back, and was unhappy with the team. Now even if this was just his agent speaking, Nino is still the best trading chip we have. The 20 year old has a lot of potential and talent, but the Islanders biggest problem is not scoring goals. If I was sitting in Garth’s chair and got a call with the offer of Nino and the 15th overall pick for Bernier, I would take it in a second. Obviously, Niederriter has potential and talent, but the Islanders aren’t desperate for a scorer, but they really need a goalie.
So as of right now, the Islanders look primed to make a move for Jonathan Bernier, sometime between now and the draft. It really comes down to Garth pulling the trigger, and giving up a prospect, and possibly a draft pick.
So, Islander fans, what do you think? Would you want to see a trade for Bernier, or would you rather the Isles keep their assets and pursue a goalie in free agency? Let me know in the comments.