Toronto Maple Leafs: Is it Time to Shop Jonathan Bernier?


The Toronto Maple Leafs had high hopes for Jonathan Bernier when they traded for him in 2013, but it has not worked out the way the team has hoped, especially this season

Nov 15, 2015; New York, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier (45) gives up a goal to New York Rangers center Derek Stepan (21) during the second period of an NHL hockey game at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Bernier’s time with the Toronto Maple Leafs could be summed in many ways. But one word that comes to mind is unpredictable, especially this season.

After signing a two-year, $8.3 million extension, the writing on the wall basically named Bernier the Leafs guy in net for the short-term future. But now it is starting to seem unlikely.

The Leafs were wise not to give Bernier more than two years in a new deal because the team should not be committing to a goalie in the long run.

At the age of 27, Bernier is at the point of his career where he may only have a short window before his play starts to regress. Plus, with young goalies like Garret Sparks at 22 years old, and Antoine Bibeau at 21 years old, the Leafs are in no dire need to acquire another starting goalie, especially if they do not expect to be a contending team for a couple of years.

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The obvious issue is whether teams will want to take a chance on Bernier, who is clearly struggling to get his confidence back and has another year left at $4.15 million on his contract.

However, this season has shown that many teams will struggle as a result of their goaltending. Those teams include the Calgary Flames, Carolina Hurricanes, Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Arizona Coyotes, and the Buffalo Sabres, all of which are near the bottom in combined team save percentage.

The Leafs were among those teams, but since James Reimer replaced Bernier as the starter the team’s combined save percentage, and the team, has been rewarded with a three-game winning streak. That streak ended, however, largely thanks to a poor performance by Bernier against the New York Rangers.

While Reimer’s trade value is way higher than Bernier’s, it would not be wise to trade Reimer for a couple of reasons.

Nov 2, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer (34) reacts after a win over the Dallas Stars at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Dallas 4-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

One is the fact that the Leafs would probably not get a fair return for Reimer because goalies do not get a lot in return on the trade market. Teams are unwilling to overpay for a goalie because they feel that there could be better options in free agency, or choose to draft and develop one instead.

The other is the fact that Reimer is a UFA and the team will probably have a good chance to keep him around as the starting goalie until either Sparks or Bibeau are ready to take the reigns. Teams are investing more in their backup goaltenders so if down the road the Leafs want to keep Reimer as their second goalie, they could try to sign him to a reasonable deal.

There is an obvious concern that the Leafs could face, though. If they do decided to trade Bernier this season and Reimer leaves at the end of the year, then the team would have lost Reimer for nothing. There is no indication, however, that Reimer would want to leave, especially with the way the past couple of weeks have gone for him.

The free agent market for goalies is not great this summer with goalies like Cam Ward, Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, Niklas Backstrom, Ben Scrivens, James Reimer, Anton Khudobin, Antti Raanta and Cam Talbot on the market.

At this point the Leafs would be wise to try to get Reimer a contract then take a wait and see approach with Bernier.

The Leafs do not necessarily have to be aggressive in pursuing a team to take Bernier. A team could actually approach the Leafs for him.

If Bernier can find a way to improve then there could be teams interested in him, especially those who have struggled with goaltending. Despite his struggles this season, Bernier still owns a career 76-74-21 record with a .915 sv% and a 2.65 GAA.

Granted he spent five years playing for the Los Angeles Kings, but maybe a change of scenery could benefit the Leafs and Bernier.

Obviously the Leafs will not give Bernier away for nothing, but they also will not attempt to have a team overpay for him.

Teams like the Oilers, Flames, Hurricanes, and Flyers are those that would be getting an upgrade if they trade for Bernier. The Flames, Oilers and Hurricanes have their starting goaltenders coming off the books this season so they will have to find suitable options to replace them, especially the two Canadian clubs who are under a lot of pressure to turn things around.

Next: Is Matt Duchene A Trade Option for the Maple Leafs?

Do you see the Leafs trading Bernier this season or next season? If yes then who would be the right trading partner? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.