After the Kings poured in three goals on a five-minute power play in the first period of Game 6 to effectively clinch the Cup, I could only think about one thing: this didn’t have to happen. The five-minute boarding major was called, as everyone knows, on Steve Bernier. What everyone might not know or remember: Bernier was nearly a St. Louis Blue.
In July 2008, the Vancouver Canucks made a move on the Blues’ restricted free agent and future Inglourious Captain, David Backes, signing him to an offer sheet worth $2.5 million a season. The Blues, obviously, quickly matched that and retained Backes, but John Davidson and then-GM Larry Pleau were just a little peeved at the Canucks for the maneuver.
So they retaliated by signing RFA Bernier to a $2.5 million offer sheet. Bernier hadn’t even played a game for the Canucks yet, his rights having just been acquired for draft picks. But the Blues’ fuck-you move forced them to vastly overpay Bernier, at least for the one season (evidence of the vast overpayment: four years later, Bernier is making the league minimum, and on the AHL shuttle).
But what if they hadn’t matched? The Blues would have had Bernier for the 2008-09 season at least. And, given the organization’s strong proclivity for retaining and attempting to the greatest extent possible to develop young talent (Exhibit A: sticking with Patrik Berglund), it’s not inconceivable that Bernier would have played a few more seasons in St. Louis–he is, after all, still only 27 years old, and had shown some promise in his early 20s with the Sharks (he also put up good numbers in the QMJHL, but everyone puts up good numbers in the Q). In all likelihood, he wouldn’t have been with the Devils this season, and wouldn’t have been in a position to commit a dumb penalty, which his teammates promptly followed up with a horrific penalty kill.
It’s the Butterfly Effect, on ice.