Should the Edmonton Oilers be interested in Jonathan Bernier?

The situation in net for the Oilers is not particularly good. Devan Dubnyk has shown well over the last two seasons, but isn’t a sure thing and backup Nikolai Khabibulin has had one good, healthy, season since the NHL lockout. With Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier requesting a trade, should the Oilers be interested?

The short answer: probably not.

Yesterday, Bernier told French-language media that he had requested a trade back at the NHL’s trade deadline. The Kings told him it wasn’t happening. Now, however, he expects that the team will accommodate his request prior to training camp. From L.A. Lariviere with TVA Sports, who broke the story on Twitter yesterday:

Bernier’s a good goaltender, and should attract interest from teams in need of net-minding help. The 23-year old was the 11th overall pick of the 2006 Draft, and had two excellent seasons as a starter with Manchester of the AHL prior to a pair of decent seasons as a backup in Los Angeles. Likely, he will show himself as a starter-calibre goalie in the NHL at some point in his career.

The thing is that Los Angeles, like Vancouver with Cory Schneider last year, really has no reason to accommodate his request unless they get what they perceive to be fair value coming back the other way. Bernier’s under contract for next season at a reasonable cap hit, and he will be a restricted free agent afterwards, meaning that the Kings can safely use him for a year and still be confident that he’ll have trade value next summer. It might be tough for the Kings to get his name on a new contract a year from now, but that’s not a pressing reason to deal him.

It’s been suggested in some quarters that Bernier must be dealt so as to keep peace in the locker room, but to put it bluntly that’s a crock. Bernier asked for a trade at last year’s deadline, meaning that this situation existed all through the Kings’ playoff run – and as I recall, the team did okay in the post-season. (Digression: This particular locker room also featured ‘Dry Island’ duo of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, the much-maligned Dustin Penner, and others. If ever there was a team that proved the lasting worthlessness of arm-chair team psychology, it was this one.)

So, despite Bernier’s stated wish to go elsewhere, the Kings are under no particular pressure to move him immediately. That means they’ll be expecting so receive market value for him, and despite the fact that Bernier remains unproven, market value seems to be pretty high. A few recent trades involving young goalies shows that:

  • Semyon Varlamov (Career: 59GP, 0.917 SV% at time of trade) – traded for a first round pick (Colorado had finished with the second overall pick that summer) and a second round selection.
  • Anders Lindback (Career: 38GP, 0.914 SV%) – traded with Kyle Wilson and a seventh round pick for Sebastien Caron, two second-round picks and a third-round pick
  • Sergei Bobrovsky (Career: 83GP, 0.909 SV%) – traded for a second round pick and two fourth round picks

None of those goaltenders really come close to the draft pedigree of Bernier, with Varlamov (a 23rd overall pick) coming closest. Where would Bernier’s value lie, compared to the three above? It seems likely that the Kings would be looking for at least a first-round pick; they might even be able to finesse a little more out of an organization.

The Oilers aren’t really in a position to be giving up first round picks; maybe they could swap a prospect instead but either way the acquisition would be pricey. Additionally, they aren’t really set up to acquire a goalie like Bernier.

The team’s decision not to buyout Nikolai Khabibulin – as well as to ink Yann Danis to an incredibly lucrative AHL contract – means they’re ill-suited to adding a goalie without sending one away. Would the Oilers be willing to bury Khabibulin’s contract in the minors? It seems unlikely, particularly given that if the Oilers had bought out Khabibulin in the summer, they’d have saved $1.25 million in real money. If they had real interest in upgrading between the pipes, that was something they likely would have done.

Nor is Bernier a clear upgrade on Devan Dubnyk. Leaving aside the size factor (which is increasingly becoming a vital factor for goalies), Bernier has played 48 career games and posted a 0.910 save percentage. Dubnyk has 101 career games under his belt with a 0.910 save percentage – and the latter number is dragged down by a 19-game run in 2009-10 where he posted just a 0.889 save percentage. Bernier may be the better player in the long run, but it isn’t at all clear that he’ll be hte better player next season.

If the Kings were in a bind with Bernier, a position where the Oilers had some leverage to extract a favourable deal, things might be different. But at this point, paying a premium price in assets for a guy who may not be an upgrade over the current starter – and who will clearly be displeased if he ends up as the backup – would be a mistake.

THIS WEEK BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • @ Will

    Dubnyk played in 47 but only started 42.

    He played the first 3/4 of the season as back up and then ran with it for the last quarter. Ended up starting 50% which is a big increase from previous years. I would think if Khaby is his backup he needs to start 62+ games for them to have a good year.

    I have no clue what his conditioning is like, or how he practices. Some goalies could play all 82 games while others burnout if they are playing more then 50. Khaby has had good games and good runs of games. He may be fine as a backup and may come in with something to prove, but he has lost my faith. It is also just as possible another year further diminishes his skill set and losing the starting role effects his confidence making him a shell of what he was last year(Which is hard to picture)

    I believe this is the tandem we enter the year with, but would prefer they had bought Khaby out and replaced him with a capable tender.

  • Some of yuo think Bernier is all hype and no substance , and you would be wrong . If you said that about Dubnyk i might buy that at this stage , Dubby was really weak in shootouts as i recall . How far might L.A. have got without the performnces of Quick ? Bernier would be a good canditate to do that for us if we obtain him . I’ve been a fan of his since his Memorial Cup days where he was simply incredible .

  • The Oilers Shot Clock

    I think dubnyk has at least earned an opportunity to fail. Give him some rope, lets see what he does with it.
    I like that he posted good numbers on a bad team, and I like how he’s as tall as two Bernier’s.
    Small goalies are dinosaurs…small dinosaurs.

    • orion

      Bernier has played 48 career games and posted a 0.910 save percentage…and Danis has played 50 career NHL games and posted a .910 save percentage.

      I know Danis is a little small for a goalie, but I don’t understand why you would trade for Bernier when you’ve got a guy with similar ability already in your system. Quick has shown that you don’t need to be all that big to be successful in the NHL.

  • Oilertown

    The whole team psychology is overblown. When the team wins, no one cares in Penner’s has a pancake problem, Bernier wants a trade, if Doughty is paid too much for being only a 40 point guy, and Mike Richards and Jeff Carter are smoozing with Kobe and the Laker girls. The team looks for fall guys when theres a lack of success.

    When the Kings loose 8 straight in December, Penner’s problem with the pancake and malt based beverages will occur. The Philly fab duo will need rehab, and people will claim the King’s need a back-up to spell off a tired Jonathan Quick whos all of sudden swears to much in interviews and needs a solid number 2.

    Sports is stupid

  • nuge2drai

    Oiler Domination to Follow

    I would love to see Dubnyks numbers after the departure of Tom “soft hands” Gilbert and the arrival of Nick “The Rock” Schultz..

    If someone can make that happen, that would be greatly appreciated. If memory serves me correct, Dubnyk became an elite goalie after his acquisition, but I dont have the stats. Its interesting how Defense makes goalies better and sadly Dubnyk has never had any – hes always had the likes of Barker, Peckham, Sutton patrolling the blue line – so he has never really had the chance to shine

  • O.C.

    Speaking of psychology, there is some logic in a warped way surrounding the Dubnyk contract.

    If he becomes a legit number one, there are no problems. Duh.

    But.

    If Roy plays into the rotation by the break, then it’s easier to trade a player who looks to be paid as a bargain number one instead of trying to say your underpaid player was really a number one.

    I don’t know if that translates well…

    But if the Oil were signing a player from another team that was good but being outplayed by someone else, if that player was making Two Beans a year then no one would believe this guy was really a legit starter. At 3 to 4, the fans in say Florida as example might buy into a trade.

    As far as a trade for Bernier goes? No. Too much young depth coming. BTW Did the Oil sign that Finn they drafted last year?

  • Oilertown

    The short answer: probably not.

    Wow have to disagree J.W anything is an improvment over Khabby IMO. Kinda of like the thought of how they could push each other. Not to mention I got a feeling Lomabardi will not be dealing with us. But if he did what do you think the starting asking price would be for him.

  • Bryzarro World

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  • orion

    MADJAM –
    You recall wrong, Dubnyk was fairly strong in shoot outs. He is in the top ten in the league with a .741 shootout save percentage.

    In regular play Dubnyk and Bernier have the same save percentage but Dubnyk has played double the games, with a poorer defence. I don’t see any upgrade here at all.

  • NuckfiSh

    Hey guys, I wandered over here from CanucksArmy and couldn’t help notice ur little debate here…

    I think that if you get both ur goalies, whoever they may be, working together as a team rather then apart & competing with each other for ice time, i think you’ll be more then happy with the results. We’ve had a starting goalie “dilema” in Van the last 2 years & won the league each season… So whether you go with Dubnyk & Khabby, or Duby & Bernier, as long as they are in it for the W’s your fine either way.

    The real question then becomes about character, and if Bernier & Dubnyk are team guys who will be willing to work together & each become great goalies on the same team. If Bernier is that team guy then i say do it. Give up the assets & solidify that position.

    Later!

  • NuckfiSh

    TO HAVE TWO QUALITY GOALIES IS NOT A BAD THING . Add Bernier to compliment Dubnyk then . Was it so bad for Canucks or L.A. ,etc.. Now we have Khabby and Dubnyk , but that doesn’t turn me on or very few others .

    Howson will probably get him anyways by dangling Nash deal to L.A..

  • NuckfiSh

    We have to endure Khabi for one more year and then he is gone. We get nothing for him now and will only burn assets and cap space to rid ourselves of him.

    Over the next year better alternatives will show themselves either from within; Roy, Bunz or Danis or our prospect will be worth more over the next year as they continue to develop and be better trade bait. Khabi is our cross to bear for one more year. Lets hope he plays less and stays healthy.

  • NuckfiSh

    Nothing wrong with having two quality goalies at this point in the rebuild. Rotate them like Sather did with Moog and Fuhr.

    Its not really an issue until playoff time and given where the Oilers are, that’s something they can worry about when they get there.

    I would be trying Marincin or Musil for Bernier.