It took until March, but the Toronto Maple Leafs are finally getting decent and consistent goaltending out of Jonathan Bernier.
Bernier has a had a roller coaster ride of a season that has a seen the 26-year-old struggle mightily at the start of the year, resulting in a trip to the minors, to his most recent success in March featuring a 1.92 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage in eight games this month.
Maple Leafs management shouldn’t be fooled by Bernier’s play the past month, as his time with the club has proven he’s not the goaltender of the future in Toronto. Bernier has shown flashes of being the talented player he was hyped up to be before being traded by the Los Angeles Kings, however, he’s also been plagued by inconsistency and has an awful tendency of losing focus during games resulting in devastatingly weak goals.
It’s not like Bernier hasn’t been given every opportunity to succeed either, as he was routinely favored over James Reimer as the duo battled to become Toronto’s No. 1 goaltender. Even when Reimer would have success and should have been given the opportunity to run as the top goalie, somehow the team kept going back to Bernier in another of a multitude of attempts for the former King to prove himself.
Unfortunately for Toronto, finding a true No. 1 goaltender to build around is going to be extremely difficult. This summer’s free agent class offers very little in terms of a quick-fix solution as names like Cam Ward, Jonas Hiller and Antti Raanta are nothing to get excited about.
Frederik Andersen is a restricted free agent who is rumored to be available, but acquiring the 26-year-old could be considered a repeat of the Bernier trade since the club would once again be acquiring a young but relatively unproven goaltender. It’s unlikely the Maple Leafs would give up the assets needed to acquire Andersen unless they were getting a guaranteed top goaltender in return, and Andersen can’t provide that at this stage of his career.
Bernier is still under contract for one more season, so since there aren’t any quality free agents this summer and it’s unlikely another team would trade it’s top goalie, it looks like the Maple Leafs and Bernier will be stuck together for one more year unless a magical trade happens. The good news for Toronto is it’ll only be for one more season, as Bernier has clearly shown he’s not something the club should be interested in building around.