Devils Find Their Backup Goalie with Jonathan Bernier Signing

A little over a week ago, the Carolina Hurricanes traded away Alex Nedeljkovic to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for Jonathan Bernier. This move was quite surprising since Nedeljkovic was the second runner-up in the Calder Memorial Trophy race and showed glimpses of potential. When looking at this trade on paper, it left a lot of people puzzled as to why the Hurricanes would accept this kind of deal from the Red Wings.

The only idea that people could muster up was that the Hurricanes weren’t willing to pay him the money that he deserved. Nonetheless, it seemed as though the “Bernier era” was set to take place in Raleigh, North Carolina. However, after a few failed contract negotiations, Bernier found himself on the free agency market. It took a quick conversation with legendary New Jersey Devils goalie, Martin Brodeur, to convince him to sign with the Devils.

Goalie Situation Background

Bernier signed a two-year $8.25 million deal on the same day that the Devils acquired Dougie Hamilton. Obviously, with Hamilton currently being one of the best defensemen in the NHL, it’s quite possible that the signing of Bernier flew right over the heads of some Devils fans. However, his production and impact shouldn’t go left unnoticed. I believe that general manager, Tom Fitzgerald, hit another home run with this signing.

Because Bernier will be able to provide the tools necessary for this young Devils team in the same way that Corey Crawford was supposed to. Crawford initially signed a two-year contract with the Devils, however, he abruptly retired before the start of the 2020-21 season. He was a solid veteran goalie that had championship experience. His job was to take a backseat to Mackenzie Blackwood and play the role of a mentor towards him.

Jonathan Bernier #45, Detroit Red Wings
Jonathan Bernier while playing for the Detroit Red Wings in 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Once Crawford retired, it left a huge gap in the Devils’ goalie rotation, and it showed during the course of the year. Backup goalies Scott Wedgwood and Aaron Dell showed a lot of inconsistencies during the shortened season. It was especially true when Blackwood was sometimes scratched from the lineup due to Covid related reasons or injury. So, one of the main priorities for Fitzgerald was to find a solid backup goalie. Bernier will be a great addition to the Devils’ roster. Because, when looking at it in a different context, his numbers were actually solid.

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Last season, he appeared in 24 games for the Red Wings and had a record of 9-11-1 while posting a save percentage (SV%) of .914 and a goals-against average (GAA) of 2.99. In theory, he didn’t really have much help on the defensive side of things. The Red Wings were below the league average with 3.0 goals allowed per game (GAPG) and almost last in shots allowed per game (SAPG) at 31.8.

What Does Bernier Provide?

When comparing those stats, the Devils did have the lower defensive ranking in that regard. Because their GAPG was higher (3.38), and their SAPG was lower (31.02). As a result, they finished with the lower defensive percentage of 10.9%. However, their defense will be much improved, especially with the signing of Hamilton. His Corsi for percentage (CF%) was 58.7 last season. So, Bernier will have a more reliable defense to help back him up. Overall, he has the experience to help out this young Devils team.

He will be turning 33 in a few days and has been playing at the NHL level since 2007. He won a Stanley Cup championship in 2012 with the Los Angles Kings at the Devils’ expense. He has also proven to be a capable starter when need be during his tenure with the Toronto Maples Leafs, and his worst season was a couple of years ago while still playing for the lowly Red Wings. I think this move is quite compelling and will be interesting to watch.

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