There are two remaining unsigned restricted free agents across the NHL – Ottawa center Shane Pinto and Columbus defenseman Tim Berni. While talks are ongoing with the former, it doesn’t appear as if the latter will be signing with the Blue Jackets. Instead, Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reports (subscription link) that the blueliner is expected to play in his native Switzerland this season.
The 23-year-old played a regular role in Columbus for a good chunk of last season due to injuries, suiting up in 59 games, third-most among their defenders. Although he didn’t do much offensively with just three points in those contests, Berni logged just shy of 17 minutes a night and averaged a little over two hits per game. That had him hoping that he’d be able to get more than his qualifying offer, a price tag that was actually a dip on his $925K AAV from his entry-level deal as it checked in at just over $874K.
However, earning a roster spot with the Blue Jackets this season was going to be much more difficult. The team added Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson over the summer while Zach Werenski and Jake Bean are coming back from long-term injuries. Between that and the other pieces they brought back from last season, Berni was thought to be on the outside looking in. To his credit, he attended camp on a tryout agreement – a move rarely seen for RFAs – but was cut earlier this week.
With that cut happening, Berni has two options. Sign a two-way deal with Columbus and get run through waivers to go to AHL Cleveland or head overseas. It appears he’s choosing the latter, allowing him to play at home for the upcoming season. Having qualified him in the summer, the Blue Jackets will continue to hold his rights.