Detroit Red Wings: Bernier’s Play Could Position Goalie for Bigger Payday

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Already trailing 2-0 Sunday, Detroit Red Wings goalie Jonathan Bernier stared down Tampa Bay Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph and kicked away the quality scoring chance.

The quick-reflex save propelled a 4-on-2 break the other way, which Filip Zadina converted and pulled the Red Wings to within one.

Bernier couldn’t save the punch-less Red Wings during their regular-season home finale, but the way the pending 32-year-old unrestricted free agent (UFA) is capping the campaign; he is paving a way for at least one more big payday this offseason.

Red Wings’ Tag-Team Goalies

Tag-teaming starts with Thomas Greiss the past month, the duo has been making the offensively challenged Red Wings competitive against some of the NHL’s top teams.

Over his past three starts, Bernier turned aside 119 of 126 shots but was tagged with three losses. The Red Wings, who rank last in NHL scoring with an average of 2.15 goals per game, managed just four goals during the three outings.

Bernier may not have a win in his past five starts, but opposing scouts are taking note and rival general managers are calculating the cap hit they can potentially afford to land Bernier.

Considering Bernier will be looking for a big deal on what figures to be his last opportunity to sign a long-term contract, Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman could be prepping for a bidding war.

Bernier’s late-season play could force Yzerman into paying Bernier more than the $3 million cap hit he took up the past three years.

Two reasons could force Yzerman to pay Bernier:

  • The Red Wings’ brass anticipates a corps of young forwards and defensemen will earn prominent roles next season, meaning the backend will need to solid.
  • The organization has a group of goalie prospects at least two or three years away from contributing.

Offseason Decisions to be Made

Toronto’s Frederik Andersen ($5 million cap hit), Colorado’s Phillip Grubauer ($3.3M), Boston’s Tuukka Rask ($7M) and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne ($5M) are among other top goalies set to hit the open market this offseason, according to spotrac.com.

Former Red Wings goalie Petr Mrazek, who has a current cap hit of $3.125 million, also will be a URA and Detroit’s brass will have to decide on its two 29-year-old depth netminders, Kevin Boyle and Calvin Pickard.

Greiss, who has one year left on his deal with a cap hit of $3.6 million, has pitched consecutive shutouts and is 5-0-3 in his past eight starts. Another season of Bernier and Greiss tag-teaming starts will be needed to buy time for the organization’s top prospects to gain experience.

Bernier’s next deal should be lucrative.

He’s earned it.

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