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

  • “One bad goal per game monkey enters stage left.

    No pressure Dubey…”

    Bernier got a .911 Sv%.
    Facing 27.4 shots a game with a cup winning D.

    Dubnyk got a .915 Sv%.
    Facing 31.6 shots a game with a less than average D.

    Some people latch on to the negative imagine that occured a couple times all season and ignore the other 40 Games.

    I will take the odd bad game for the other 35 he kept us in.

    I mean really! “bad goal per game monkey”

    This kind of hyperbole is ……….!

    Then I saw it was you!

    Par for the coarse!

  • @ Will

    Thanks for the compliment before crushing me….lol. Just kidding.

    For the record, I hate the contract they offered Dubnyk. I would have offered him longer term to show my confidence in him rather then the larger amount. If we continue to overpay we will be in cap trouble in a hurry. All that being said I think we are all going to be pleasantly surprised with Dubnyk this year. He posted above average numbers with the worst defence in the NHL. I would assume with a real defence in place he could be one hell of a goalie. I think he is currently better than Bernier and would win the starting role anyway.

    The problem I have is Dubnyk has never been a starter for an 82 game season. If he gets tired we will be throwing points away by putting Khaby in net. If he gets hurt we will be finished. I hate having this kind of risk going into a bubble season. I think the team is on the brink of playoffs and could possibly make them this year.

    My ideal would be to sign Bernier as his backup…..but we know that isn’t happening and this is where I came up with my previous post. Bernier probably feels he could win the starter role and he is probably smart enough to figure out that even if he ended up being the back up here he is going to play a lot more games then he would as Quick’s backup. If we brought him in and I am wrong and he steals the show……..then we have a star goalie and I would be willing to deal with Dubnyk’s hurt feelings.

    • Ha! That all makes sense. I also think he could have a great year with improved defense. As not having a season at number one, didn’t he play 47 games last year?

      I don’t think 13 extra games is too much of a stretch, or even if he plays 15 extra, and can get ten extra wins out of those 15, I’d be pretty ecstatic.

  • Hopefu;lly there is no one silly enough to suggest trading Dubnyk with a .915 Save% over the last two seasons on a 30th place team.

    We had an improvement in the quality of defence pairs
    1. with acquiring N. Schultz.
    2. plus playing cam barker less.
    3. Whitney’s return in Jan.

    Dubnyk went 16W – 11L – 4OTL with a .920 SV%

    Imagine 65 games with a further improved D.

    Bernier please!

  • Spartacus

    Does this loyalty to Khabibulin in the face of all logic help to counteract some of the bad PR accrued by the Oilers management during the Souray Scenario?

    Or during the Comrie Complications?

      • DSF

        No he wasn’t.

        Both Horcoff and Penner went out of their way to tell the media Souray was a good team mate and that he would be welcome back in the room.

        Various media accounts from Dallas also indicated that Souray was a great team mate and a stand up guy.

        Not surprising that he got a new three year deal while Lowe is still cutting him cheques.

        Of course, I’m sure you’ll find a way to blame Slats for the entire fiasco.

  • Pass…. just singed Dubby for $7 large. Bernier wants to be the ‘GUY”, , so you have Dubby as back on a $7.00 mil contract. Not good planning, not mention the final year of Habbys deal.

    For now its sink or swin and see how he carries the workload. Maybe with a better defensive play this might help him {dubby}. He sill has a problem with his post to post movements … little slow on the draw.

  • I would inquire to see what it would cost and ask to talk to him. If he can be had cheap and is ok coming in and playing for a spot then I would go for it.

    We have a career AHL goalie as insurance and a guy that plays worse then your average homeless person could play for a cheeseburger as our back up. If Dubnyk gets hurt our season is over. Start out the season splitting games and make it well know going in that the job is up for grabs. It seems to be the trend in the NHL no to have a poweful goaltending tandem that each pulls their weight.

    An ideal situation would see one of them stepping up and winning the starting role but even then one playing 50 games and the other playing 32. No back to backs are played, in case of injury we are in good hands and if they are both playing well let the backup play enough to increase his value for trade.

    • BurkeTheTurd

      I gotta say Cody, usually your comments are well thought out and on point, not that this one isn’t, but I really disagree for our current goal tending position. I think the contract Dubnyk just got lets him know he has an unimpeded shot at being the Oiler’s number one for the future. Bringing in someone to challenge for the number one spot would be counter productive, and it also is’t the best goal tending situation possible. Sure Halack and Elliot were great in the regular season, but as soon as the Playoffs got under way, they folded. Also, teams that have a clear cut number one, and then happen to also get talented back-up are the teams usually with the strongest goal tending (Lunqvuist, Thomas, Miller, Ward, Quick, Kipper, Brodure) This is what the team should be looking for Dubnyk to become. True we need an upgrade on our backup, but not someone who’s going to challenge for the number one. Instead we need someone who’s comfortable playing a good amount of games in a solid backup role, like Schnider did with Luongo before the playoffs. That will carry us much deeper than a 1A 1B tandem like the Blues have, or like the Oilers have had for many years.

  • BurkeTheTurd

    Love to have him as a backup to replace Bullin. Can’t have him here if he thinks he deserves the #1 spot. If he can earn it, great, but can’t be given to him

  • T__Bone88

    I agree, would Bernier really be much of an upgrade over Dubnyk? How many times do you see an goalie taken in the 1st round become only average to below average (only exceptions Luongo, Ward, Price etc.). You would think by now Bernier with his pedigree would of taken over the number 1 position. I think the best course of action is keep drafting goalies until you find your elite starter and only trade if you are absolutely desperate and have no one in the system (ie. Tampa, Colorado).

  • BurkeTheTurd

    Bernier asking a trade from the Kings means he wants a shot at number one. I think the guy only has like 45+ games or something as experience. Dubnyk with his new contract should be given his shot. This really isn’t a giant leap forward for the Oilers or a giant leap back. To me Dubey starts and Khabbi grabs some pine. Goalies are so unpredictable these days, remember some years ago Steve Mason playing unreal? Mathieau Garon playing unreal? This year Brian Elliott and Mike Smith becoming the next Brodeurs. As dumb as this may sound I think Dubnyk has been steadily rising, hes been playing on horrible teams so its tough to gauge his development based on losing seasons on losing teams. At times though he does make things look super easy, I say keep developing him and if all else fails make a trade.

  • BurkeTheTurd

    So if the Oilers are intent on not upgrading our goal tending situation this year, other than trading starter positions, and Habby’s contract runs out next year. Will the team promote someone in the system (Roy / Bunz) or go after a goalie in free agency and try and get someone on the cheap (like Washington did with Vokune)?
    If it’s the latter, who’s going to be available for cheap, and will that goalie near the end of his career be an upgrade on Habby (well obviously since much has been written about Habby being the worst signing of any team in the last three years).

  • Reg Dunlop

    That Varlamov trade was a substantial overpay. If LA is looking for a similar return for Bernier… I hope they have to keep looking. Dubnyk is our #1 and he will thrive in that role. Also, Khabbi is finishing his contract here so he will doubtless have a good year

  • Eddie Edmonton

    BERNIER IS AN UPGRADE -plain and simple and thus worth inquiring about . A lot of Oilers nation has little negotiating skills . Everyone including Crosby are for sale just like Gretzky was – you just have to find the price and start negotiating from there . Dubnyk should get L.A.’s attention for many reasons . Even without dangling Dubnyk , Bernier is worth persuing even if a deal may not be reached as we still have to adequately replace Khabby this year or next .

  • Eddie Edmonton

    “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 Khabibulin posted just a 0.889 save percentage.”

    Khabibulin is so awful he drags down the numbers of his teammates, even when he’s injured and isn’t playing 😉

  • billylikestodrinksoda

    Nope. Bernier is trying to get out of a situation where he’s behind a capable goalie. Dubnyk signed a starter contract and probably will be pissed if he’s playing behind soon-for-the-glue factory Khabibulin. If we trade for Bernier, we will have one pissed off goaltender or another. Given how ‘well’ the Oilers do when a trade demand appears from a player, this isn’t the healthiest course of action for the team IMO.

  • Eddie Edmonton

    That’s a genius question. Of course not. We have Dubnyk for now, and Bunz and Roy on the come up. Bernier is not a proven goalie, just a proven whinner. No thanks. Next article please.