In today’s news:

Leafs file for arbitration on Jonathan Bernier

The Leafs have filed for club-elected arbitration on restricted free agent Jonathan Bernier. While club-elected arbitration is certainly more rare than player elected, this is nothing too out of the ordinary. Last summer, Michael Frolik, Ryan O’Reilly and Vladmir Sobotka were all subjects of club-elected arbitration. O’Reilly settled on a two-year pact just before arbitration, Sobotka left to the KHL, and Frolik settled on a one-year contract two days before arbitration.

According to Pierre LeBrun, there is no ill will according to Bernier’s agent as the two sides continue to negotiate on a deal before it ever reaches a hearing. As the club elected for arbitration and not the player, it means the Leafs wouldn’t be able to walk away from a settlement if the case does go before an arbiter.  Neither the club or the player have walkway rights in cases of club-elected arbitration.

Bob McKenzie speculated (transcript below) that it protects the Leafs from an offer sheet; that is only partially true. Rather, club-elected arbitration narrows the window in which a player can talk to other teams and sign an offer sheet. Bernier can talk to teams about offer sheets starting June 26, and could sign an offer sheet between July 1 and July 5. Probably not a realistic concern as in all likelihood the Leafs would match what Bernier would be offered, but worth knowing nonetheless.

From Pierre Lebrun:

Bernier and his agent, Pat Brisson, have no problem with the Leafs‘ filing; it’s all part of the business and, in fact, Brisson and the Leafs’ front office continue to have good dialogue about a new contract, which would make the arbitration filing a moot point.

From Bob McKenzie on TSN Drive:

First and foremost, if I’m not mistaken, they’re the only club to have done that this year. The Avalanche did it to Ryan O’Reilly last year, and it’s a seldom-used tool that’s in the belt if teams want to use it. It’s kind of perceived as a hostile option at times. At this particular time, as I understand it, I think the biggest the Toronto Maple Leafs have done it is the fact that, once you’ve filed club-elected arbitration on somebody, they cannot get an offer sheet from team, a restricted free agent offer sheet; if that were an issue, and I’m not sure it necessarily is and maybe there are other reasons for filing club-elected arbitration. Now, the flip side is – as I understand it and I stand to be corrected because I don’t have my CBA in front of me and I don’t memorize this stuff, I try to have a life – Bernier can also file for salary arbitration, player-elected arbitration. And then they go through the routine. It’s not an ideal circumstance for a guy like Jonathan Bernier with the year he had, and that hurts his positioning and the numbers obviously weren’t great. It’s more likely to be a short term deal than a long term deal, but he’s also getting closer to walking himself to free agency so the Leafs will be cognizant of that as well.

Kozun to the KHL

Restricted free agent Brandon Kozun has opted to sign for Finnish club Jokerit of the KHL. Acquired in January of 2014 in exchange for undrafted prospect Andrew Crescenzi, Kozun appeared in 20 games with the Leafs in 2014-15, making the team out of camp after some good preseason performances wherein he was a buzzsaw and played fearlessly at his size. You wonder if Kozun would’ve been able to make more of an impact last season without the knee injury that sidelined him out of the gates in October, but he was ultimately a bit-piece and a long shot to be a consistent regular on the team.

Leafs meet with Nikita Zaitsev

The Leafs won’t be signing Nikita Zaitsev this season, but it appears Shanahan met with him and has attempted to lay some groundwork for when the 23-year-old KHL defenceman’s contract expires in 2016.

Here’s more on the Zaitsev situation.

Price on Kessel ‘very high’

More from Lebrun:

“Two hockey executives from rival teams said that over the past several weeks the Leafs have a price for Kessel that is way, way too high. So the executives are staying away until it comes down. Can’t blame Toronto for starting high. Why wouldn’t you?

“They’re going to have to eat more of his salary than they think right now,” said one of the rival executives.

Not much to be said here. The Leafs shouldn’t be retaining salary for seven years to move an elite scorer off their team. That’s a total non starter, and if this sentiment is more than just head games in the media, it’s a pretty easy decision to hold onto Phil for now, or it should be anyway.

Thursday Links:

    • Tony Saxon: Holland loves life as a Leaf (Guelph Mercury)
      “There are a lot of distractions in this market if you don’t know how to deal with it,” Holland said earlier this week, well aware of what being a local lad playing for the hometown team involves.”You definitely get lots of opportunities when you play for the Toronto Maple Leafs,” Holland said earlier this week. “It’s such a great way to build your own personal brand.”
    • Josh Gold-Smith: Lightning GM Yzerman: Stamkos contract extension is ‘No. 1 priority’ (The Score)
      “I’d like to get Steven Stamkos signed to an extension,” Yzerman told reporters Wednesday at the team’s final media availability. “That’s my No. 1 priority. We’ve got some other restricted free agents, a couple other contracts and things we have got to do, but that’s the No. 1 priority.”
    • Brock Otten: Travis Konecny Scouting Report – 2015 NHL Draft (MLHS)
      Sean Lafortune: From a projection standpoint, I think there’s a lot of value in him similar to Crouse in the fact that I think you could play him on a third line-second line role and probably produce pretty healthily in the NHL. There’s a lot of value in guys like that and you can’t necessarily always get franchise guys after the first four or five picks. A guy like him who could be a 40-50 point and play two-ways and play a high-compete with leadership capabilities as well, I think there’s a lot of elements to his game that translate from there.
    • Jonas Siegel: In-depth Q&A with Leafs amateur scouting director (
      I’m very positively encouraged by how Connor Brown played in the American Hockey League. Certainly, a lot of our young defencemen, I feel, are getting closer each year. A kid like Dakota Joshua, who just won the Clark Cup and played a key role, that’s exciting as well. These are small steps for each of them to get to the big team someday and try to help us win a championship. There’s all little steps, but I feel encouraged by a lot of the players. And even William Nylander with theMarlies, as well. I thought that he had made some strides there by the end of the season it seemed and I was getting good reports.