Swiss National League – Goaltending Shuffle

Last season SC Bern signed Niklas Schlegel away from the ZSC Lions. They knew it could be a risky move, and it did not work out well for either side. Now there is some shuffling and gambling about this season.

Sure, to replace Leonardo Genoni in Bern and then face the heat of the hockey fans everyday and deal with the media over the smallest mistakes is a lot to deal with for a new goaltender. It was too much for Schlegel. He couldn’t handle it, and faltered.

Is this his fault? No, it was the circumstances surrounding him that caused him to play as usual. There were the injuries to the Bern defense. At one point during his stay in Bern there were five seasoned defensemen and several defensive-minded forwards all out, plus a slump in goal scoring. All of this added up. But now he gets a fresh start with HC Lugano. He signed a new contract that runs through the 2021-22 season.

New Team, but New Luck?

But who did replace him in the crease? It is a well-known goalkeeper from Finland. Tomi Karhunen had already played for the HC Ambrì-Piotta two seasons before. Coming from the Lahti Pelicans, he joined Bern in mid-November when he got a contract until the end of the season. He currently has a save percentage of .928 and a goal-against average of 1.92. Compared to Schlegel, that’s a boost for the whole team.

Toni Rajala, Niklas Schlegel
Biel’s top scorer Toni Rajala scores on Bern’s goalie Niklas Schlegel in a shootout (PPR/Anthony Anex)

But Schlegel is not the only goalkeeper with a new team this season. Robert Mayer also has one. The goalie from Geneva will join HC Davos next season. This means that one of the two netminders, Joren van Pottelberghe or Sandro Aeschlimann, will be on the move.

Van Pottelberghe: to Detroit or Staying in Switzerland?

While van Pottelberhge, who has Swiss-Belgian dual citizenship, may end up in North America playing for the American Hockey League affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings, Aeschlimann will most likely stay in Switzerland. But that’s not the only shuffle that will come.

By the end of next season there could be six goalies who have to sign a new contract with their respective team or must look for a new one. Benjamin Conz and Daniel Manzato will be at the end of their contracts in 2021 with HC Ambrì-Piotta. The same is true for the goalies from the SCL Tigers, Dario Ciaccio and Ivars Punnenovs. All four Netminders will for sure test the market and their value. It won’t be a surprise if at least two of the mentioned four will be playing for a new team next season.

As for Sandro Zurkrichen (Lausanne HC) and Melvin Nyffeler (SCRJ Lakers), their chances of staying with their current teams are higher. That’s especially true of Nyffeler, who said early in the season that he does not want to switch teams. But what will happen if one of the four big teams, SC Bern, HC Lugano, ZSC Lions or the EV Zug, offers a contract that he cannot resist? It would be difficult for a small-market team like the SCRJ Lakers to match such an offer.

Nevertheless what happens in the actual season, the goalkeeper market will get a big shuffle at the end of the 2020-21 season. And trust me, there will be a lot of rumors about what team will take which keeper. And the salary is certain to be ridiculous. Don’t be surprised if the netminders would crack the CHF 500,000 (~$508,000 USD) mark soon. I bet that there will even be some salaries going as high as CHF 700,000 (~$711,000 USD) for a season. But the reason behind that theory is an article for another time.