Jonathan Bernier and the Toronto Maple Leafs were $2.2 million apart just four days ago, but with three hours to spare, the two sides have avoided the need for an arbitrators ruling and agreed to terms on a new contract.
It’s a pretty straight forward one, really. Bernier gets a two year deal for $8.3 million, which in turn pays him $4.15 million in each year of the contract. Each of these years come with a $2 million signing bonus, which is of course integrated into the cap hit.
What does this mean for Bernier?
Bernier is now the 24th highest paid goaltender in the National Hockey League, while being one of the youngest in the top 25. Only Braden Holtby ($6.1 million) and Sergei Bobrovsky ($7.425) make more money at a younger age. This isn’t neccessarily a bad thing – it shows that today’s GMs require a larger sample before dishing out large paycheques to goaltenders.
As well, Bernier also gives up a single year of unrestricted free agency with this signing. He was due to hit the market as earily as next July.
What does this mean for the Leafs?
The deal is a pretty solid one for a goaltender of his calibre. While Bernier is far from an elite goaltender, he’s put up a very solid 0.917 save percentage over the past 110 games with the Leafs. If he starts off this season decently and the Leafs feel that they’d still like to acquire assets, the combination of term and cost could make him an attractive target for a team that isn’t quite capped out but wants to improve in net.
The structure of the deal also makes him intriguing for a team that is low on actual cash. With Toronto paying out an immediate $2 million today, this brings his dollar value down to $6.15 million over the next 23 months. If Toronto holds on to him until July 1st of next year, his real money cost will be just $2.15M. A team struggling to hit the floor that wants to be somewhat competitive would be all over such an acquisition.
Plus, if the Leafs turn out to be not as awful as we’re expecting, there are worse things to have in the world than a Bernier-Reimer duo, at this age, combining for under $6.5 million against the cap. Toronto now has $2.5 million in cap space, though they can spend up to $7.5 million more with Nathan Horton’s LTIR-ready contract considered.
Overall, the deal is a fair one for both sides, and shows how ridiculous the arbitration demand system is. It’s of no shock to see both sides hit a middle ground as quickly as they did, even if the team gave in more than the player.