The Jonathan Bernier sweepstakes have been ramping up in the last few days, with teams attempting to land the coveted backup goaltender of the Los Angeles Kings. Early Sunday, it would appear we have a winner in that race, with the Toronto Maple Leafs acquiring Bernier for a handful of players.
We knew that Bernier was going to fetch a haul for whoever ended up acquiring him. As it would turn out, the Leafs didn’t actually lose that much in trading for him. The Leafs surrendered goaltender Ben Scrivens, forward Matt Frattin, and a second round pick. They lose a backup goaltender, a depth forward, and a conditional draft pick.
Not bad at all. Especially for a goaltender with Bernier’s upside. Stuck behind Jonathan Quick, it’s long been known that Bernier was seeking his own starting gig somewhere. It’s also been known that he’s a goaltender with huge upside and potentially elite potential. He showed some of that in 2013.
Bernier actually outplayed Quick for a majority of his 2013 season. Though his appearances were limited, with only 12 starts on the year, he posted a very good 1.87 goals against average and a .922 save percentage, while winning nine of his 14 appearances overall. Is acquiring a goaltender the right move for Toronto, though?
James Reimer actually had a very good season in 2013. He was one of the only reasons that the Leafs were able to push that first round series to seven games before they eventually melted down in Game 7. But coming off of a couple of disappointing years, the Leafs’ brass may have wanted insurance in the event that Reimer regresses next year.
As far as what the Maple Leafs gave up for them, it’s about what you’d expect, but still isn’t a terrible package to surrender if Bernier reaches his potential. Frattin had some upside as a checking line guy, Scrivens is a backup, and draft picks are always a wild card.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Maple Leafs plan to trot out the two goaltenders. Is Bernier coming in as the unquestioned starter? Will there be a training camp competition? Will the two split time? You don’t give up three pieces to sit a guy on your bench. The former is more likely.
Now, it’s a matter of seeing what Bernier can do as a starter. There’s obviously big risk involved when you bring in a guy who has never been a full time starter, no matter what kind of potential he’s shown. But if he reaches that potential, this becomes a fantastic deal for the Maple Leafs. In the end, this is a deal with potential to work out very well for both teams.
But that doesn’t necessarily erase the questions of why the Leafs felt they needed to trade for a goaltender. There are several moving parts, which will bring about mixed reviews for the Leafs from fans and media alike. But until we see what Bernier brings to the table, and how Frattin fits in with Los Angeles, it’s difficult to make a true judgement.