Even though Reto Berra is currently playing for the Florida Panthers and will be in net tonight against the Montreal Canadiens, RTS Sports is reporting that he has agreed to a three-year contract with Friborg-Gottéron of the Swiss NLA. The netminder has been rumored for months to prefer a return to Switzerland after the season. Berra is in the final season of a three-year, $4.35MM deal he signed with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014 and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
While it’s not unusual for a player to leave the NHL to play in his home country, it is surprising to see it play out so publicly while Berra is getting his chance to start. With Roberto Luongo and James Reimer still battling injuries, the team had to turn to Berra to finish the season for them. A good showing could have easily turned into a contract somewhere around the league as a backup, though it is clear he would rather return home to start. At times, Berra has looked like a viable starting option in the NHL, only to lack the consistency that one needs. He clearly has talent to play among the best in the world and with the NLA continually getting better and better as a league—some even consider it among the top three in the world—he’ll still face challenges every night.
At 30 years old, it’s not impossible for him to return to the NHL but it does seem unlikely. After this year ends, the next chance an NHL fan will likely get to see him would be at an international event like the World Championships, where he has played five times throughout his career.