Bernier the Boats

Bernier the Boats

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The Jonathan Bernier to Toronto speculation was ongoing all week, so it wasn’t a complete surprise when the Leafs acquired him yesterday. What was surprising, considering teams that are in much worse shape in net like the Flyers and Islanders were in on the bidding, is that one of those teams didn’t offer big value for a goalie so many are apparently high on.

Ultimately, it seems the Leafs were able to offer a package that matched up well with the Kings’ needs. The Leafs gave Los Angeles a good backup goalie and top nine forward who combine to cost them a million bucks (since the Leafs are retaining salary), along with a second round pick. That’s solid value for a guy who requested a trade on a team that’s tight against the cap.

Conversely, the Leafs assumed more risk in this deal but are receiving more potential in return. Dave Nonis basically admitted as much in his press conference, saying “we felt the gamble was worth taking with the upside that we think that Jonathan has.”

From Toronto’s point of view, they are getting an asset they think has legitimate franchise goalie upside for below market value considering LA’s circumstances and Bernier’s trade request. Even though the Leafs already have a goalie that was lights out last season and basically carried them to the playoffs, Nonis still pulled the trigger on this deal. I wrote last week that I’m betting the Leafs are more concerned about Reimer’s ability to stay healthy than his actual talents, but what they traded away isn’t a package you put together to merely bring in a backup goalie.

For comparisons sake, here is what other teams paid to acquire a young goalie in the past few years:

  • Tampa acquired 24-year-old Anders Lindback, Kyle Wilson and a 7th for Sebastien Garon, two second round picks and a third. They also traded Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop afterward.
  • Colorado acquired 23-year-old Semyon Varlamov for the 11th overall pick and a conditional second round pick.
  • St. Louis acquired 25-year-old Jaroslav Halak for first round prospect Lars Eller and third round prospect Ian Schultz.

None of those goalies have panned out spectacularly for their teams, but like the Leafs, none of them really gave up anything substantial, either.

If Bernier does pan out, you have to wonder what this means for Reimer.

When Randy Carlyle was head coach of the Ducks, the most starts a goalie ever received under him was Jonas Hiller’s 58 starts in 2009-10. The season before that, Giguere started 44 games and Hiller started 38, so he’s no stranger to platooning his goalies and balancing out starts.

Reimer admitted to the Sun that “Overall, I felt I played well this past season. I feel like I’ve established myself as a No. 1 goalie in this league.” And that after seeing the trade it made him, “feel a bit doubted as a goalie.”

Barring the Leafs signing Bernier –who is an RFA—to an unexpected long-term extension, we have to assume that Bernier and Reimer are in an open competition for the net, but when a GM brings in “his guys” history tells us that his guy usually wins when push comes to shove.

The bottom line is that the Leafs already had a guy who looked well on his way to being a legitimate number one goalie in the NHL in James Reimer, and for whatever reason, they still question him.  Now, they’ve brought in competition and doubled their odds that one of Bernier or Reimer will emerge into the role of a true franchise goalie.

Reimer does have more experience having played over 40 more games Bernier, but neither goalie has been a full-time starter over an 82-game season. If you combine Reimer’s career high in games in a season in the NHL (37) and Bernier’s (25), it doesn’t even come close to equalling a full regular season.  Whether you think Reimer or Bernier is the real deal, the truth is that neither has proven it yet over a full campaign.

The Leafs have hedged their bets that one of the two goalies, who have played together before with Team Canada, will finally emerge in net. This is a team which a little over a year ago was forced to dress Jonas Gustavsson and Jussi Rynnas in the same game, and now their “issue” is that they have two goalies who both have strong track records to suggest they can both be true number one goalies in the NHL.

The trade also saw the Leafs lose a solid top nine forward in Matt Frattin. As things stand right now, the Leafs are slated to lose Bozak and MacArthur on top of already losing Frattin and Komarov from last season’s group. There are only seven forwards under contract right now for next season and they are Kessel, JVR, Lupul, Grabovski, Kulemin, McClement and Orr. Even if their remaining three RFAs (Colborne, Kadri and McLaren) are resigned, they’ll still have four holes to fill on forward.

It’s a deal that has left us with more questions than answers, but we do know the Leafs have upgraded in net with Bernier and the hope is that it pushes Reimer to be even better, too. Good goaltending pushed the Leafs into the playoffs this season, and they just got better in net in the overall sense. There are still massive holes to fill at center and defense, but if Bernier pans out in net for the Leafs and forms a strong tandem with Reimer, the Leafs didn’t give up much to do it and it’s going to help them throughout long 82-game seasons.

One thing we can all agree on is that this trade will have something great come out of it if it keeps Ilya Bryzgalov in Philadelphia.