The New Jersey Devils went out and got a goaltender this offseason, trading for and then signing Vitek Vanecek to a three-year, $10.2MM contract. Given that we’re now a few weeks from the start of the regular season with both Mackenzie Blackwood and Jonathan Bernier still on the roster, it was unclear exactly how the position would shake out.
In his latest for NJ.com, Ryan Novozinsky relays that a source close to the situation told him Bernier “definitely won’t be ready for the start of the season.” The veteran netminder had hip surgery in January and appears poised to start the season on the sidelines. It is not clear when he will be back, which will certainly raise some alarms over whether his career is nearing an end.
Bernier, 34, has played more than 400 games in the NHL but just 34 since the start of the 2020-21 season. Incredibly, during that long career, he has never posted a save percentage under .902 in a season in which he appeared at least five times. His .912 career number is impressive, especially when you consider some of the brutal teams he has played behind.
The 2015-16 Toronto Maple Leafs won just 29 games and finished dead last in the league, leading to the selection of Auston Matthews that summer. The team’s leading scorer (Nazem Kadri) had just 45 points. Despite that, Bernier posted a .908 save percentage in 38 appearances. In 2019-20, the Detroit Red Wings won just 17 games, finishing dead last in almost every category during a historically-bad season. Bernier, ever the stable presence, posted a .907 in 46 games.
While he has never been the best goaltender in the league, it’s been a long productive career for the 2006 11th overall pick. Hopefully, this latest injury can be resolved at some point and he can return to the ice.
For the time being, it’s Vanecek and Blackwood in the crease for the Devils, though they do have some additional depth at the position. Both Akira Schmid and Nico Daws played NHL games last season and will be needed if the team suffers another injury.