New Jersey Devils: Jonathan Bernier Injury Led To A Lot of Change

New Jersey Devils goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45): Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
New Jersey Devils goaltender Jonathan Bernier (45): Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Jersey Devils have tried multiple pairings with Mackenzie Blackwood. Since he hit the scene in 2018-19. He came out of the gate on fire and finished his first season with a .918 save percentage in 23 games. He would never hit those heights again, but it’s partially because of the failure of upper management to find him a proper partner.

The Devils tried to make Cory Schneider work with Blackwood at first, but he was far too injured to be effective at this level. Then, they bought out Schneider to sign Corey Crawford. We all know how that worked out. It was one of the few terrible decisions by Tom Fitzgerald. He wanted to move forward with a veteran netminder, but Crawford retired before playing one game with New Jersey.

The Devils were sick of dealing with goalie issues, so they went for a veteran who could be the starter or the backup, depending on what the team needed. Jonathan Bernier became available when the Carolina Hurricanes traded for his rights in 2021 and failed to sign him. The Devils signed him to a two-year deal worth $8.25 million total.

It was a hefty price to pay for an aging veteran, but it felt like the right player at the right time. He was coming off a really good season with the Detroit Red Wings, and the two-year term took away a lot of the risk. Fitzgerald looked at it like a no-lose situation. Well, the Devils definitely lost.

Bernier only lasted 10 games before he was shut down in his first season in NJ with a hip injury. That injury eventually led to surgery, ending his season. There were rumors he was going to return earlier than we all thought. Some even said Thanksgiving was possible. When we saw him practicing in training camp, the pie-in-the-sky timeline seemed like a certainty.

Then, Bernier disappeared. He was no longer practicing, and the rumors of his return went from inevitable to unlikely. We eventually learned his time in New Jersey was over, and Bernier wasn’t even really around the team anymore.

Bernier retired on Monday, officially ending his career at the age of 35. He had some serious highs, playing well for the Toronto Maple Leafs, the league’s most popular franchise. His lows mostly had to do with injury or playing on teams that were below par. However, for the most part, his career was impressive.

His time with the Devils will always be a “what if.” If the Devils didn’t lose Bernier, could they have salvaged the 2021-22 season? If he was on the team, would they have kept him with Blackwood this season? Could either play as well as Vitek Vanecek did this season? Would the Devils have missed the playoffs? He’d probably keep the Devils from the second-overall pick, so Simon Nemec is probably playing in Arizona or something.

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Bernier was fun to have on the team. He seemed like a great guy, and we were proud to call him one of ours. It’s sad it didn’t work out, but we hope the best for him moving forward.