Reto Berra – The Colorado Avalanche’s Awkward Elephant


It’s clear that Reto Berra isn’t currently occupying a lofty position in the Colorado Avalanche goaltending pecking order. As of today, it seems as though that order goes something like this: Semyon Varlamov, tired Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard, exhausted Semyon Varlamov, Reto Berra.

In fact, if it weren’t for Berra’s robust contract (at least by backup goaltender standards), there’s a chance that we might have seen Calvin Pickard as Varly’s backup for the 2nd half of the season. Perhaps Roy wouldn’t have felt the need to give Varlamov 22 straight starts if that were the case.

As it stands, Pickard has spent the majority of this season with the Lake Erie Monsters, where he is now the winningest goaltender of all time in a Monster’s uni.

An awkward elephant is only cute for so long, especially when a talented elephant is waiting off-stage, and the star elephant is injuring his groin every other month due to being overworked

In all honesty, I’m 100% okay with Pickard getting a lot of playing time in Lake Erie, and I think it will only help him in the long-term. Picks is still a young player, and regular playing time at this critical point in his development will only make him a better player.

In many ways, it’s a shame that Lake Erie is being robbed of their goaltending stud as they make their own push for the playoffs.

No matter how you slice it, it’s an awkward situation for everyone. It’s easy to see that the biggest goalie of the bunch, is that awkward elephant.

You have to feel bad for Berra. He seems like a pleasant young-man, and it has to be no fun for him (granted a $1.4M dollar payday for the season is nice compensation for a rough year playing the sport you love). I guess I don’t feel too bad for him, but still, as a professional you want to get meaningful work and perform your best.

For the Avalanche, I think the writing is on the wall. Unless Berra miraculously can elevate his game several notches in the near future, I don’t think the Avs can justify having him in Denver next season.

As far as this season, the Avalanche could use Berra to boost their chances at landing Connor McDavid, but that’s a hard message to send to the locker room and fans. The Avs technically are still in the playoff hunt, but it still would take a miracle. Even if they do make the playoffs, how much can we expect this team to accomplish once they get there?

An awkward elephant is only cute for so long, especially when a talented elephant is waiting off-stage, and the star elephant is injuring his groin every other month due to being overworked.

So, what options do the Avalanche have when it comes to Reto Berra? I think Avalanche fans might appreciate a clear look at those options.

Option 1: Buy-out the contract of Reto Berra


Woo! If the Avalanche decide to buy-out Reto Berra, he is slashed from the roster, and ownership only has to pay a portion of the $2.95M dollars he is owed over the next two years. For those curious, the buy-out window is June 15-30 each year.

This clears the way for Semyon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard to man the pipes in Denver. Pickard’s stellar play this season has proven he is more than capable of handling the backup role when he is on his game. Having a backup goalie he trusts will allow Roy to manage Varlamov’s workload, especially in back-to-back game situations.


The real con for the Avalanche is that buying out Berra isn’t without a penalty. The Avs will self-inflict a 491K cap-hit penalty that will apply every season through 2018-19. It’s also worth considering the fact that Berra’s contract would be ENTIRELY off the books after the 2016-17 season if they don’t buy him out.

491K may not seem like a lot, but it isn’t negligible. The Avs seem destined to push to the salary cap ceiling with Erik Johnson, Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Barrie, and Ryan O’Reilly all due new deals during that window. Calvin Pickard is also an RFA and probably wants a raise from his 810K salary. Not to mention depth guys, and free agent signings. That’s a lot of peanuts (but hey, at least the awkward elephant wouldn’t be around to eat them).

A half-a-million bucks per year could go a long way, for example, when it comes to getting Ryan O’Reilly to sign a long-term deal. It sure would be a nice luxury to be able to tack on 491K each year to a new O’Reilly deal, rather than bury those costs for nothing.

Option 2: Mutual parting


This alleviates an uncomfortable situation for both parties. For it to happen, Berra would have to receive a new contract overseas (likely in his home country of Switzerland).

For the Avalanche, they won’t have to buy-out Berra and suffer the nasty cap penalty. For Berra, he can just go back to playing hockey, and will likely be a starter gain for a Swiss team.


Reto Berra is due to make $2.95M dollars over the next 2 years. For him, this is a major drawback, because if he stays put that money is guaranteed (no matter how unpleasant things are).

Evan Rawal shared his insight with me on Twitter, and what he thinks the financial situation would be for Berra if he leaves. The big question is, does Berra value going home and playing time over money? And how much bad karma will Roy bring to the Avalanche if he is trying to “force” Berra out?

Option 3: Bury Berra in minors


Berra has already shown he has a goal-scorer’s touch in the AHL. For the Avalanche, this frees up an NHL roster spot so that Varly and Picks can run the show with the big club. It also keeps their salary-cap squeaky clean for next year and the future.


Berra is on a 1-way contract, meaning that he is owed his full dollar amount while in the AHL. Sending Berra to the minors is great for the Avalanche’s cap situation, but you have to wonder if the Kroenke’s would be willing to pay Berra’s $1.45M dollar salary next season if he is in the minors.

They may tell Joe and Patrick to bite the bullet, and suffer the 491K cap hit for their mistakes, rather than getting out the checkbook to cover up the mistake that was the Berra trade. Bottom line, buying Berra out saves the Kroenke’s money.

Berra is also 28 years old. This clogs up a goaltending spot in Lake Erie that might be better used for Sami Aittokallio or Roman Will.

Option 4: Trade Berra


The Avalanche would actually get something in return for Berra, and at the same time, clear him off the books.


Good luck with that.

That Other Option:

I guess you can roll into next season without doing anything, and hope that Berra can prove himself as a reliable backup. I would be ecstatic for Berra if he could pull it off! I love rooting for the underdog.

I’m in no way rooting against the guy. If he comes back and plays well for the Avalanche, I’ll be a huge fan, not that I’m not a fan now. That would be an awesome story.

Problem is, I think Berra and the Avs are both in a tough situation, and it’s just really hard to believe that everything will magically work out based on the evidence that Berra given. After his struggles this season, and Pickard’s emergence, I just don’t see this as a viable or logical option. The Avs can’t handle their goaltending situation the same way next year, and because of that, the awkward elephant needs a new home.

Next: MacKinnon Injury May End Up Helping Avs

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