Hockey, Sports, The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

The Campaign to Fire Dave Nonis: The Bernier Trade

The Leafs, who made it to the first round of the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade almost solely because of their goaltender, have traded for another goalie. This of course raises a question or two, mainly: Why are the Leafs so desperate to replace Reimer?

But before we get to that question, let’s look at the trade in a little bit more of a vacuum.

Leafs Get: Jonathan Bernier, 24, G

  • 29W, 20L, 6 other, 6 shutouts in 62 games, .912 save %age, 2.36 GAA, 9.4 Goalie Point Shares
  • 82 game average is irrelevant since he has only played in a total of 62 NHL games over the last five seasons and I don’t think AHL goalie stats are that helpful when evaluating goalies
  • Restricted Free Agent, previous salary $1,250,000

We know why the Kings traded Bernier: he was an RFA and Quick is clearly the Kings’ goaltender for the next few seasons at bare minimum. Bernier would likely have become an expensive back-up, especially if another team offer-sheeted him and the Kings matched.

The Leafs appear to get a proven back-up, at the very least and Bernier’s salary was very low. Whatever raise he gets will likely be one the Leafs can afford provided nobody offer-sheets him.

Kings Get: Matt Frattin, 25, RW

  • 15G, 13A for 28P in 82 games, +1, 13:13 ATOI
  • One year left at $925,000

Frattin is, I think, a fan favourite and he is a decent Top 9 forward, if we are to go by his limited NHL experience. But the idea that Frattin will ever become more than that should be laid to rest. Frattin is 25, and at 25 we usually already know what a winger is – it is harder to be certain about D and goalies at 25.

Frattin will likely expect a raise next summer, provided he stayed in the lineup. Provided Bernier signs for a reasonable amount, Frattin is not a lot to give up.

Kings Get: Ben Scrivens, 26, G

  • 11W, 14L, 2 other, 2 shutouts in 32 games, .910 save %age, 2.86 GAA, 5.2 GPS
  • One year left at $625,000

Scrivens was a cheaper backup than Bernier but he was also less effective – in a smaller sample – and it is his play for the Marlies that has endeared him to Leafs fans. His very limited NHL experience resulted in pedestrian numbers.

Of course, this means relatively little, since goalies have indeed appeared out of the blue in their late 20s and even early 30s in the past. But if you are betting on odds, Scrivens does not look to be anything more than either a very good AHL goalie or an average NHL backup.

Kings Get: Second-round pick in either 2014 or 2015

Cullen notes that there’s a 28% chance this pick will turn into an NHL player, all other things being equal.


  • Leafs get a backup who many view as having the potential to be a future star in Bernier,
  • the Kings get a Top 9 forward, a potential backup goalie and the chance of maybe drafting another player.

Based on potential, I have to think the Leafs win this, but!

Before we even discuss why the Leafs traded for Bernier – and what that says about their relationship with Reimer – we should mention that if the Leafs cannot sign Bernier – or they have to match an offer sheet for Bernier – this trade could be – could be – an unmitigated disaster.

If, in addition to Bernier walking or costing an exceptional amount of money, Frattin becomes a legitimate top 6 forward – very unlikely – Scrivens turns into an actual NHL goaltender – less unlikely but still very unlikely given that he is now on the Kings – and the pick turns into a Top 6 forward or Top 4 D – more unlikely – then this could be complete disaster.

But presumably the front office has already done its due diligence on Bernier’s willingness to sign with the Leafs and the odds of the rest of that happening are very, very low. So this does look like a decent move by the Leafs.

Except for the fact that they already have a goaltender and they have now manufactured their own goaltender controversy. (It’s as if, having lost the fun of that controversy with the departure of Gustavsson, the Leafs’ front office decided they wanted it back again.)

I have no idea whether or not Bernier will be a star goalie like many think he will be. He has been in the shadow of Quick so long the Kings were never able to truly see what they have in him. Unfortunately, in order for the Leafs to find that out, they will have to pit him against Reimer.

I don’t know that Reimer has warranted this – certainly his play this season should have made him the undisputed #1 goalie in Toronto – and, unless the Leafs know something I don’t about Reimer’s health – or attitude, or willingness to play for a reasonable amount of money – it seems like a deliberate slight to him at a time when they should be focusing instead on extending Reimer.

This is what I’m worried about: the Leafs move Reimer because they now have Bernier – whether this summer or because Reimer gets off to a poor start next season – and Bernier turns out to be either as good as Reimer or not as good. I don’t know that this will happen or not happen, but I don’t see why it was even a concern for the Leafs going into the off season.

The need was, rather, to gain an actual #1 centre – as it is every off-season – and to improve the defense – which, without Reimer, would have been bad rather than just below league average – as well as, perhaps, figuring out what to do about Kessel and Phaneuf. It’s hard to know what to make of a trade that doesn’t address any of these issues and creates a whole new issue.

Unless Bernier was acquired to make a subsequent move, I have no idea why the Leafs traded for an above-average backup goalie – and arguably paid above what they should have, given Bernier’s RFA status – when Scrivens or Rynnas probably could have fulfilled that role until the Leafs were in a little better position – as a team, not in the crease – to contend with the Bruins, Pens, etc.

(Incidentally, though some are criticizing the Kings for only getting back a Top 9, a backup and a 2nd rounder, we must also note that Bernier is RFA, and teams have gotten a lot less for established RFAs in the past.)

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