It’s no secret the Leafs are in need of some goaltending help. Right now all the talk is of bringing in Roberto Luongo from the Canucks, however it’s looking more and more like Roberto has his heart set on returning to the Sunshine State if a deal can be worked out between the Canucks and Panthers. While Luongo would obviously bring an immediate upgrade to the Leafs’ netminding woes, he is getting further along in his career and the cost to bring him here may just to be too much. We’ve all seen the Leaf’s unload their future for veterans before, often returning poor results, and they really can’t afford to move too many quality pieces off their starting roster.
Which leaves the tantalizing option of making a move for LA Kings’ backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier very appealing. The Kings’ already have their main man, in Jonathon Quick locked up for the next 10 years, and Bernier has recently made it known that he expects, and has asked to be traded.
Widely regarded as one of the top backups in the league, Bernier would look pretty good as a starter in Toronto, or at the very least, in an open competition with incumbent James Reimer. That competition is out of the question in LA, but the job could be his to lose in Toronto.
The Jonas Gustavsson experiment didn’t pan out, and Reimer, while winning over Leaf hearts at the end of the 2010-11 season and starting off strong in 2011-12, was never quite the same after coming back from a concussion sustained in the early stages of last year. Gustavsson is now in Detroit, and unless the Leaf’s plan on going with a Remier/Ben Scrivens combo, another goaltender has to be brought in anyways.
Bernier has expressed interest in playing closer to his hometown of Laval, Quebec, and short of playing in Montreal or Ottawa who already have clear-cut starters, Toronto would be the next closest option.
Bernier’s 2011-12 stats aren’t much to get excited about, posting a 5-6-2 record with a GAA of 2.36 and a save percentage of .909, though he wasn’t given much playing time with Quick carrying the load and did have an 11-8-3 record, 2.48 GAA and .913 save percentage the season before. He is also a former first round pick, going 11th overall to the Kings in 2006.
In contrast, in 37 games for the Leafs in 2010-11, Reimer went 20-10-5 with a 2.60 GAA and .921 save percentage, but took a step back last season at 14-14-4, 3.10 GAA and a .900 save percentage.
Surely LA won’t be looking to just give Bernier away, but he should come much cheaper than Luongo and the Leafs should be able to package up some players from a strong farm system to entice LA to make the move. The Kings’ roster should look pretty similar at the start of this season, but as with any Cup champion, some vets will be looking for bigger contracts down the line and this could be a perfect opportunity acquire some future pieces and appease Bernier’s trade request by making a trade with the Leafs.
The Leafs are currently 40-1 odds to lift the Cup next spring.