The Toronto Maple Leafs have acquired a conditional draft pick in 2017 from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goaltender Jonathan Bernier.
Mike Babcock has mentioned in the past that he’s not a big fan of 1A/1B situations with goaltenders, and that’s traditionally been Lou Lamoriello’s approach as well. If it wasn’t already, the Maple Leafs are making it crystal clear that Frederik Andersen, acquired from the same Anaheim Ducks for first and second round picks before signing a long-term contract in Toronto worth $5 million per season, is their guy from the start of training camp onward with this move while opening up some cap space.
Per James Mirtle, it sounds as though keeping Bernier this season was never seen as an option by Leafs brass:
The Babcock-Bernier relationship was never going to last another season.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 8, 2016
Before the trade, the Maple Leafs had one of the most expensive goaltending tandems in the league.
The Leafs have already paid nearly half of Bernier’s annual salary through a $2 million signing bonus on July 1st (as has been a continued trend in free agency this summer), making him considerably more tradable. He likely would have been included in the original Andersen deal if not for the bonus that was due on July 1, which the Leafs picked up the tab on in order to facilitate the trade.
There’s no indication yet on any additional salary retention by the Leafs beyond the bonus payout which will not count toward the Leafs’ cap. Having signed a two-year bridge contract in the summer of 2015, Bernier becomes a UFA on July 1, 2017.
The Leafs will gain as much as $4.15 million in cap space for the upcoming 2016-17 season, although one anticipates the team bringing in a veteran backup to play behind Andersen given there’s no obvious backup candidate currently within their system.
That cap space provides some needed flexibility for the Leafs in the immediate term, and could also provide some relief looking ahead to 2017-18 — the combination of needing to use LTIR relief (Nathan Horton) paired with possible performance bonus achievements by entry-level players (Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner) can lead to larger bonus overage charges the following season.