The Dispatch has confirmed that Howson has inquired with Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi regarding Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who has asked to be traded in the wake of a 10-year contract signed by Jonathan Quick, the Conn Smythe Trophy winner and the Kings' clear No. 1.
The Blue Jackets had been linked to Bernier in proposals for several months before the Carter/Johnson trade. His lack of inclusion in the February deal surprised many fans both in and out of Columbus. Curiously, it was only until it became apparent that Bernier wasn't part of the package for Carter that Kelly Chase proclaimed the Columbus scouts weren't interested in the young backup. Bear in mind that the Kings were, by all accounts, reluctant to move Bernier until Quick was re-signed, and Steve Mason was posting worse numbers than Bernier.
So, have those Columbus scouts suddenly done a 180, or was that merely post-trade spin? Or is the report wrong? Howson denied he discussed a Nash/Bernier trade, though TSN seems to have gotten the rumor garbled to begin with. And what about their other young goalie, Sergei Bobrovsky?
Portzline is too reliable for me to dismiss this report out of hand. Let's look at his trade proposal to see where Columbus would benefit.
[Columbus] could simply return the Kings' first-round pick acquired last February in the Jeff Carter for Jack Johnson deal. The Blue Jackets passed on using it this season, so they have the Kings' 2013 first-rounder. Perhaps Steve Mason, in the final year of a contract but three years into a slump in Columbus, would be part of the deal, too.
Now that all makes sense -- at least from Columbus' perspective. They've wanted to ditch Mason for some time. He wound up finishing the season with an abysmal .894 SV%.
He is not an asset. He's a liability.
Steve Mason's Time In Columbus Is 'Probably Finished'
Here's what Aaron Portzline had to say about the struggling starter back on January 31st:
It has been more than 2½ seasons since Steve Mason played like a franchise goaltender and carried the Blue Jackets to the Stanley Cup playoffs. He has been one of the NHL’s worst goaltenders statistically since. [...]
The Blue Jackets will do everything they can, sources say, to give both them and Mason a fresh start. It could come before the trade deadline if they find a taker, or it could happen in the offseason.
Who would take Mason in a trade at the deadline? No one, it turns out. Who would take him now?
After three sub-par seasons, with a save percentage well below the league average, the Jackets would love to dump the remaining year of Steve Mason's $2.9 million dollar contract. In this proposal, the Kings would take on more salary and downgrade in goal, all for the sake of what looks to be a mid to late first round draft pick. That's putting a worse team on the ice for the sake of acquiring an unknown prospect. Columbus, meanwhile, would acquire a cheaper young goalie with #1 potential to battle Bobrovsky for the top spot. It's clear which team would be the runaway winners of this deal.
I'm betting Lombardi wouldn't consider it -- and that's why Bernier might be staying put for a while.
If Wishes Were Porsches
These rumors will no doubt pop up all summer. Bernier's camp will try to stir up interest in a trade, and potential trade partners will try to low-ball the Kings, believing they "must" move him now.
However, Bernier isn't really in a position to control his fate. Rich Hammond of the LA Kings Insider spells it out with a stinging rebuke:
If the Kings get an offer for Bernier that they believe will improve the team in the long run, they will trade him. If not, they won’t. Bernier is smart enough and reasonable enough to know that the Kings aren’t going to trade him out of charity, simply because he wants to be a No. 1 goalie. I’d like a Porsche. We can’t all get what we want.
Did anyone else just hear the crack of a whip? Ha. Ouch.
But it is true that LA's management must think about remaining competitive for the upcoming season, not making their backup's wishes come true. It is in Bernier's best interest to keep trade interest high by performing well next season and getting more starts. That is the reality for him right now as a restricted free agent. The Kings will do what is best for them.
If the trade proposals are anything like this one, he'll need to wait.