Panthers fill need for backup goaltender, send Grimaldi to Avalanche for Berra

The Florida Panthers needed a backup goaltender with Al Montoya set to test the open market. They took care of that need Thursday by acquiring 29-year-old netminder Reto Berra from the Colorado Avalanche.

One of the Florida Panthers’ needs heading into the off-season was a backup goaltender to relieve Roberto Luongo here and there.

Al Montoya had performed admirably over the past two seasons in just that role, but with some options for him to go elsewhere — and maybe even earn a larger share of the net duty — the 31-year-old appeared ready to head elsewhere as an unrestricted free agent. That left the Panthers in the market for some backup help, but they took care of that Thursday by shipping Rocco Grimaldi to the Colorado Avalanche for netminder Retto Berra.

Berra, 29, is locked up at $1.45 million for the upcoming campaign, per CapFriendly, and he’s coming off of a somewhat decent run in the Colorado goal this past season.

In 14 games, Berra went 5-8-0, but posted two shutouts, a 2.41 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. There’s not exactly a large sample size with Berra — he’s played 64 career NHL games — but his play with the Avalanche this past season is what makes him an interesting asset.

His overall numbers throughout his career aren’t great, but of goaltenders who saw 550-plus minutes of action at 5-on-5 in 2015-16, none fared better than Berra. Per Puckalytics, he had a .949 5-on-5 SP, which is outstanding. Over the past two seasons, he’s one of 66 goaltenders to play 1,100-plus minutes at 5-on-5 and ranks sixth in SP at .938.

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Whether that’s indicative of future play is hard to say, and though the safe bet is that Berra regresses from this past season’s numbers, he still looks like he can be an effective backup for the Panthers.

Giving up Grimaldi isn’t a huge loss for Florida, either. It’s not so much that Grimaldi doesn’t have the ability to be an effective NHLer, but rather that he hasn’t yet found a fit in the Panthers lineup and it was going to be increasingly difficult for him to crack the lineup. There’s a crop of young talent coming into the Panthers — Lawson Crouse, Quinton Howden and Jayce Hawryluk among them — who could overtake Grimaldi for a spot on the depth chart.

In the two seasons since Grimaldi has turned pro, the 23-year-old winger has scored four goals and six points in 27 games with the Panthers, adding another 30 goals and 75 points in 116 AHL games.

Grimaldi can likely crack the Avalanche’s bottom-six out of training camp and play a limited role, but there’s a possibility he bounces up and down between the big club and AHL just as he did in Florida. He’s in the final season of his entry-level deal and carries a cap hit of $925,000.