Re-Sign or Resign: Jonathan Bernier
Is Jonathan Bernier worthy of a contract extension?
Welcome to Re-Sign or Resign, a new segment covering the pros and cons of Detroit’s pending UFAs. We’ll be taking a closer look at each UFA while going over two schools of thought: re-signing the player, or letting him run free into the sunset. Today, we’re covering the last of the UFAs on our list and first on Yzerman’s — netminder Jonathan Bernier.
Sometimes, I wonder how Jonathan Bernier’s back feels.
Carrying a team season after season tends to take a toll on tenders. It’s been seen across the league with John Gibson, Anton Khudobin in the 2020 playoffs, and Carey Price in recent years. You can even find examples in Detroit with Jimmy Howard throughout the 2010s. Goaltending is the backbone of any good contender. In order to give your goalie the best support possible, it’s important to have a strong defensive corps in front of him.
Unfortunately for Jonathan Bernier, he hasn’t had that in recent years.
When Bernier was initially signed, he was mean to serve as a backup to Jimmy Howard during the 2018-19 season. Since then, he’s shown again and again that he’s more than capable of taking the reins as a starting netminder. He’s outplayed Howard, Thomas Greiss, and even Red Wings Legend Calvin Pickard.
The question is, can he keep up this pace?
On One Hand: Re-Sign Bernier
Out of all the signings in the Re-Sign or Resign series, this one feels like the biggest no-brainer. I can’t even count how many times Bernier made a save that should’ve been a goal. He’s the reason the Wings would lose by one goal vs. three to five goals in a given night. When Greiss floundered, he took the reins. On a team with the second-worst offense in the league, Bernier put together a .914 save percentage — a shy above average. For the record, that’s above Tuukka Rask, Jordan Binnington, and Kevin Lankinen. In GAA, he was just .01 goals below John Gibson(!) and still remained above Lankinen (take that, Chicago!).
The Red Wings would be foolish to let Bernier go. With the departure of Keith Petruzzelli, their goaltending prospect pool is pitiful at best. It ultimately becomes an if not you, then who? situation. There are no prospects in the Red Wings’ pool that could challenge a starting goaltender. Even if the Wings decide to rely on Greiss, they still need a competent — if not better — backup goaltender. By all accounts, Bernier makes sense.
On the Other Hand: Let Bernier Go
Take a look at this list of top UFA goaltenders this offseason. Quite a few intriguing names come to mind — several of which played better than Bernier last season. One of the most perplexing is Chris Driedger, the de facto starting netminder for Florida. With Bobrovsky’s monster contract and Spencer Knight’s meteoric rise, the need to re-sign Driedger becomes less and less relevant for Florida. At 27 years of age, Driedger is a perfect fit for the Red Wings’ rebuild. He’s more than capable of netminding in the NHL and put up some pretty impressive stats, to boot. Why re-sign a 33-year-old goaltender when Driedger is right there?
Even a goaltender like Frederik Andersen could prove to be a good fit in Detroit. Honestly, there are as many options as there are highlight videos of Bernier’s saves last season. With the sheer glut of UFA goaltenders available, it seems prudent to lock down the future goaltender of the Red Wings in this free agent cycle. It’s a GM’s market for contracts. They could, hypothetically, lock down someone like Andersen, Driedger, or even (and this is a long shot) Phillip Grubauer to a semi-long-term deal. As the rebuild ends and the Wings look to contend, they can seamlessly transition their UFA into a backup role to help whoever they choose as their top ‘tender.
Ultimately, goaltending is one big question mark. There’s no telling whether a goalie will thrive or barely survive in their roles. We’ve seen long-term deals blow up with guys like Sergei Bobrovsky and huge steals in Andrei Vasilievsky. There’s no point in giving a long-term contract to a player that might falter when the going gets tough. That’s why signing Bernier is the biggest no-brainer on Yzerman’s to-do list. He can be signed to a two-year deal to backstop the rebuild for a little longer. If he excels, he can be (potentially) shipped off to a contender in 2022-23. If he falters, he’s only there for a little bit. It’s a win-win no matter how you look at it.
Here’s to hoping we see more of Bernier in the Winged Wheel.
Should the Red Wings re-sign Jonathan Bernier?