Since the Los Angeles Kings were crowned Stanley Cup Champions just over a month ago, all the discussion in Toronto has focused on the Maple Leafs goaltending. It's evident to many that the inconsistent play the Leafs recieved from their goalies-James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson-a year ago was responsible for the team's free fall down the Eastern Conference standings. For the most part this offseason, the Leafs have been relatively quiet both on the trade and free agency front however GM Brian Burke is leaving no stone unturned in his search for a true No.1 goaltender. Toronto has been rumoured to be one of the few teams showing significant interest in Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo and while talks continue between the two clubs, a deal has yet to be reached. The fact that Canucks GM Mike Gillis refuses to lower the asking price for the 10-year veteran has led to Burke to explore other options. After showing interest in Kings backup goalie Jonathan Bernier at the trade deadline, the Leafs reportedly made L.A a formal offer last night.
The attention shifted to Bernier following his comments from a week ago stating that he would like to have the opportunity to prove himself as a top NHL goalie, a feat that can only be accomplished if he is traded. Jonathan Quick's dominance in the playoffs and and his recently signed contract extension have him penciled in as the Kings starting goalie for the next 10 years. "I asked the Kings to trade me before the trade deadline, but they refused...now that Jonathan Quick signed a long-term deal, I expect to be traded before training camp starts" Bernier said in an interview.
In Toronto, Jonathan Bernier would become the favourite for the Leafs starting job as his incredible talent and potential outweighs his lack of starting experience. The 23 year old Laval, Quebec native has started 42 games in his young career, while posting a 20-17-5 record, a 2.50 goals against average, a .910 save percentage and recording 5 shutouts. Bernier would be an immediate upgrade for the Leafs when you consider the mediocre numbers that Jonas Gustavsson, James Reimer, Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas totaled last season. It remains unclear on what exactly the Maple Leafs offered for Bernier however the Kings interest in Matt Frattin and a second round pick may be enough to finalize a trade that would send Bernier to Toronto.
The Leafs have already bolstered their offence by acquiring James van Riemsdyk from the Flyers but that alone won't be enough to make Toronto a playoff team with lingering holes to fill, starting in net. By adding a goalie like Bernier in the mix, it improves the entire team. There would be no goaltending carousel this season for head coach Randy Carlyle to deal with which is sure to result in much more consistent play. He would also instill confidence in the team's forwards as they would no longer need to score a minimum of 3 goals a game to have a chance to win. If there's a breakdown in the defense, Bernier has the ability to make the key saves and ultimately keep his team within striking distance.
If it's between Jonathan Bernier and Roberto Luongo to be the Leafs starting goalie the safer choice is Luongo however I would rather the upside of Bernier. With Roberto Luongo teams know exactly what they are getting, a consistent netminder going on 34 years of age with a decade remaining on his contract who is soon to begin the decline in his career. On the other hand Bernier has yet to enter the prime of his career and has more than enough talent to be a starter in this league. Even with Luongo in the fold, the Leafs are not a lock to make the playoffs meaning they would lose valuable prospects and picks that would have been beneficial to the future of the team. Bernier would be a low risk, high reward acquisition seeing as in the odd case he doesn't live up to expectations, the Leafs can turn to James Reimer. Reimer had an impressive 20-10-5 record in his rookie season with a 2.60 goals against average and a save percentage of .921. Prior to suffering a concussion, he was on pace to do the same last season after starting the year with a 4-0-1 record.
As long as the price is reasonable, Jonathan Bernier is a perfect fit with the Maple Leafs. Bernier would finally get his opportunity to be a starting NHL goalie without having to share ice time and Toronto would have their first true No.1 goalie since the lockout. The potential addition of Bernier puts the Leafs one more step closer to ending the playoff drought and returns hope to the city of Toronto.
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