The Reto Berra Dilemma: Avalanche Practice Report


The Colorado Avalanche skated off yesterday’s turkey dinners, with a nice Friday practice session. I decided to attend, because hey, Black Friday means black Avalanche practice jerseys, right?

Injury Notes: Semyon Varlamov was a full participant, as was Erik Johnson. This means full-contact sweaters for both. John Mitchell and Jesse Winchester were also on the ice in full-contact sweaters. Patrick Bordeleau skated the warm-up in an orange non-contact jersey, but did not participate in the full practice.

This rest of this practice report is going to focus on the goaltenders. Calvin Pickard got the majority of work at today’s practice (Roy’s post practice presser announcing he would start against Dallas didn’t come as a surprise to me for this reason). Semyon Varlamov was worked in on a lot of the drills as well. Reto Berra spent the majority of practice standing and watching.

Berra did see some action during the rush drills at the start of the day. He looked like the weakest of the three goaltenders in these drills, especially to his glove side. He just looks lost and is struggling with confidence. Pickard, on the other hand, looked very solid. Varly looked good as well. I didn’t notice any limitations with Varlamov’s movements on the ice. Visually, he looks ready to play.

While Pickard and Varly were in net for a lot of the down low drills, shooting drills, and 2-on-2 work, Reto Berra was off on his own on the other end of the ice. One of the Avalanche assistant coaches skated in on him, and took a shot. As he was skating in, I thought to myself, “oh good, at least Berra can get some confidence stopping a coach.” Instead, even the coach scored on Berra.  I believe it was video coach, Mario Duhamel, but don’t etch that claim into stone.

I was curious to see what Patrick Roy had to say on the practice, and how this goalie situation would play out. As I said above, Calvin Pickard has earned the start against Dallas tomorrow night. Roy also said, if a decision had to be made today, the Avalanche would choose to keep Calvin Pickard. Read into this what you will. I will give insight into the possible scenarios the Avalanche could explore below. First, here is the post-practice presser from Patrick Roy.

Are the Avalanche going to waive Reto Berra?

This is a very hard decision to make. The Avalanche invested a 2nd-round draft pick to acquire Berra last season. They also extended him to a 3-year, one-way contract, worth $1.45 million annually.

The one-way element of Reto Berra’s contract make it an absolute nightmare if they choose to waive him. This is because the Avalanche would still be paying him his full NHL salary while in the minors. Calvin Pickard is on a two-way contract. His NHL cap-hit is $813K, but if he is in the minors, the Avalanche organization pays him a significantly smaller portion of that. Financially, it is much cheaper to send Pickard back to the minors.

There is a chance, that a team would put a claim in on Reto Berra if the Avalanche chose to waive him. Not a big chance, but a chance. The Avalanche could also explore trading Berra, but again, what team is going to want to give up an asset for a goaltender with a sub-900 save percentage for his career? Oh wait, the Avalanche gave up a 2nd round pick to do that exact thing last year… I digress.

It is also worth noting, that the buyout window for NHL players is June 15-30 every year. This means, if I’m not mistaken, the Avalanche aren’t able to simply cut Berra from their roster. If they do choose to buy him out next summer, per the buyout calculator on, the Avalanche would suffer a cap penalty of $491K every season through the 2018-19 season.

A Berra Sized Mistake

I’m going to toot my own horn a bit. People are quick to say, trust the organization. Roy and Sakic know a lot more about hockey than you do. This is 100% true. But I also know a little bit about some things, including hockey, and can recognize when a team makes risky move.

Last summer, I wrote an article highlighting the fact that Roy and Sakic have a lot to learn about managing their assets. The Reto Berra situation is a prime example. They went out and overpayed for a goaltender with a 2nd-round pick, and then signed him to an extension making him one of the richest backup goaltenders in the NHL. All for a guy who’s career save percentage in the NHL is 0.891. Risky. Risky. Risky. It seems to be burning them now.

I recommend you check out the article if you haven’t already, for more insight on the risky moves the Avalanche have made in recent months. You can also find me on twitter @Cottstigan for more updates, pictures, and video from today’s practice.