Jonathan Bernier: Soon To Be Maple Leaf?
Last week we speculated that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke would be smart to go after 23-year old goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who had just asked to be traded out of the Los Angeles Kings organization.
Since then the Columbus Dispatch has said that the Blue Jackets were interested in acquiring Bernier and now Hockey Night In Canada’s Andi Petrillo has announced via Twitter that the Maple Leafs have made an offer for Bernier.
While no details of the potential deal have been released there are bound to be a number of scenarios being rumored shortly. From the outside looking in it would appear as if Los Angeles may covet one of the Maple Leafs young defensive prospects, or perhaps they would be willing to take a flyer on Nazem Kadri, whose name always seem to pop up in any trade rumors involving the Leafs.
The Maple Leafs currently face the prospect of having to enter the 2012-13 season with youngsters James Reimer and Ben Scrivens between the pipes, a fact Burke seemed very much aware of earlier this summer when he pointed out to Toronto’s Fan 590 radio station, that he was not interested in adding a young goalie to his current mix, rather that he was looking to add a veteran/more experienced goaltender to help his team get off to a good start to the 2012-13 season.
Burke made similar comments at his year end press conference, where he showed a lot of confidence in Reimer, but also hinted that he would be looking to upgrade if he could.
“Positionally we have to look at the goaltending, it wasn’t good enough this year, said Burke. I think that James Reimer is the real deal; I think we can still plan on him being a number one guy, but we have to look at if we can bring in a guy that can bring us more options and more performance right from the get-go next year.
Between them, Reimer and Scrivens have a grand total of 83 games experience at the NHL level. While a move to bring Bernier into the fold would go against Burke’s earlier comments, it is hardly uncommon for general managers to say one thing and then go in another direction.
Originally drafted in the first round (11th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings, Bernier has one year left on his contract at a cap hit of $1.25 million until he becomes a restricted free agent in 2013-14.
Through 16 games last season Bernier posted a 5-6-2 record to go along with a 2.36 goals against average and a .909 save percentage. Bernier is a combined 20-17-5 with five shutouts through 48 career games played, with a career 2.50 GAA and a .910 save percentage.
Bernier was once thought to be the Kings’ goaltender of the future, but with Jonathan Quick leading Los Angeles to a Stanley Cup victory this spring and subsequently signing a monstrous 10-year, $58 million contract with the Kings there appears to be no chance of Bernier earning the starters role in Los Angeles, which we presume is why Bernier has asked to be traded.
Despite a reported clean bill of health from his injuries last season, there are still question marks surrounding Reimer’s health while Scrivens (who led the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup Final this spring at the AHL level) does not appear to be NHL ready.
Say what you will about Bernier’s lack of experience, there are plenty of hockey people that feel he is a legitimate number one goaltender. If the experts are right, Burke could address his goaltending for the next ten years by acquiring Bernier and while King’s GM Dean Lombardi will not part with Bernier for free, the return is not expected to be as high as what Vancouver Canucks GM Mike Gillis is asking for veteran netminder Roberto Luongo.
To me any upgrade or insurance that Burke can bring in to play net would be a positive move for the Maple Leafs. Considering the apprehension many have about Luongo’s salary and length of his deal, Bernier represents a low-risk/high reward option, which could see Burke steal a huge talent from the Kings.
Time will tell if Burke can pull this off, but if he lands Bernier I say his goalie troubles are over and the Maple Leafs playoff chances will get a whole lot better.
Until next time,