The Detroit Red Wings are double-dipping into free agency early this offseason by signing veteran goaltender Jonathan Bernier and veteran forward Thomas Vanek to contracts. Bernier’s contract will come in at three years and $9 million and will carry a $3 million cap hit per season. Vanek’s will carry a $3 million cap hit as well but will last only one season in the 34-year-old’s second-stint with the Red Wings.
Red Wings poised to sign UFAs G Jonathan Bernier (3 yrs at around $3M cap hit) and F Thomas Vanek (1 yr, $3M). They almost had Cam Ward on 1 yr but he chose CHI. Rest of $$ goes to re-sign RFAs Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, Andreas Athanasiou.
— Helene St. James (@HeleneStJames) July 1, 2018
Once known as an elite goal-scorer in the NHL, Vanek was a force to be reckoned with as a member of the Buffalo Sabres. In his first eight seasons in the league, the veteran scored over 20-goals a year, including two over 40 and another two over 30. To go even further, in those eight seasons, he only scored under 25 goals once – in 2012-13 when he played in 38 games in the lockout-shortened season and still managed to score a very impressive 20 goals and 41 points in 38 games.
Vanek’s success continued the following season when he would score 27 goals split between the Sabres, New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens before scoring 21 goals the following season as a member of the Minnesota Wild. unfortunately, his production started to take a sharp dip from there and the once highly-coveted veteran has now played for eight different teams, including the Sabres, Islanders, Canadiens, Wild, Red Wings, Florida Panthers, Vancouver Canucks and Columbus Blue Jackets.
With 24 goals and 56 points in 2017-18, however, it’s possible that Vanek still has something left to give an NHL team and the Red Wings are hoping that he can have another impressive season similar to the one he had for them in 2016-17 when he scored 15 goals and 38 points in 48 games.
Bernier Replacing Mrazek
In Bernier, the Red Wings are getting a goaltender who can hopefully fill in the minutes they’ll be losing in Petr Mrazek this offseason. Throughout his career, Bernier has been solid but not fantastic and has been more in line with that of a backup than a starter. For the Red Wings, this is fine as they’re paying him only slightly more than most backups are signing for this season and considerably less than most starters are receiving in the league currently.
With a 19-13-3 record on the Colorado Avalanche last season, Bernier compiled a 2.85 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. He’s been fairly consistent in recent years and with NHL teams looking for nothing more than that very same consistency from their backup netminders, Bernier should complement the Red Wings nicely. He has a career 2.68 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.
The Red Wings were one of the worst teams in the NHL last season and though they have some very valuable young assets just getting their NHL career’s started, there are also multiple veterans on the team who will need to live up to their contracts if the team is going to bounce back in 2018-19 and beyond.
Brandon Share-Cohen has covered the NHL and various professional sports for six years. Working with The Hockey Writers, Brandon works extensively on covering the Boston Bruins in addition to his role as the News Team Lead.