Reto Berra Speculation: Buffalo Sabres an Option


After months of speculation, Patrick Roy put an end to all Colorado Avalanche goalie controversy by sending Calvin Pickard to the San Antonio Rampage, leaving Reto Berra as the backup. But could Berra be traded already?

Buffalo Sabres goalie Robin Lehner is out six to 10 weeks with a high ankle sprain. That leaves the team with Chad Johnson and Nathan Lieuwen — not exactly reliable or proven goaltenders.

More from Mile High Sticking

The 29-year-old Johnson had played 56 games before this season and 46 of them in the past two seasons. He looked like he could be a legitimate starter when he posted a .925 save percentage with the Boston Bruins over 27 games in 2013-14, but was unable to keep up that trend. In 2014-15, his save percentage was .889 with the New York Islanders, after two games with the Sabres he’s at .875.

Lieuwen is not a better option, as he has the NHL experience of only seven games. So, should the Sabres go ahead and see what it would take to get Reto Berra?

The Swiss goaltender has fallen out of favor with Avalanche fans for no obvious reason. He may not be the most consistent goalie, but he’s also had some great games. His 2014-15 save percentage was .918, which is higher than the league average (.915). But yet, he would likely come extremely cheap.

Chances are that one of the main arguments pro Berra was his contract. You don’t want a goalie with a cap hit of $1.45 million to play in the AHL, simply from a business standpoint. If Berra was on a two-way deal, Calvin Pickard’s chances of making the team likely would have been much better.

Now, Berra would be cheap — let’s just put a sixth or even seventh-round draft pick price tag on him — and he would certainly be an upgrade over Johnson and Lieuwen. The Avalanche’s fourth-best goalie Sami Aittokallio is doing an outstanding job over in Finland, where he got only one goal against in six games in the European Champions Hockey League. He can easily come back to North America next year and take Pickard’s job in the AHL — or even the NHL — and giving away Berra wouldn’t result in a goalie problem for the Avalanche.

More from Avalanche News

Now, there are two problems with this deal. Firstly, Lehner is only out for around two months, but Berra would take up a roster spot for two full seasons. Secondly, the Sabres may hope for a playoff spot this season, but still in a rebuild, it isn’t their one and only goal. So, losing Lehner for two months may hurt, but losing a few games more or less might not change all that much.

Then again, two months would include 21 games, plus/minus 10 if Lehner is out for less or more than eight weeks. If you really have the wish to make the playoffs, you won’t try to make them with a goalie duo of Johnson/Lieuwen.

A Berra-trade to Buffalo would make a lot of sense for both sides. Buffalo would get a decent backup goalie who is certainly better than their current No. 2 and 3 for close to nothing. Berra also doesn’t cost them much and if Lieuwen, Linus Ullmark or Andrey Makarov are good enough to be an NHL backup within the next two years, the Sabres can simply let Berra go in free agency. Deal?

Next: Should Duchene, MacKinnon Keep Playing Fancy?

More from Mile High Sticking