Now that we’ve seen a significant contract head out the door, I feel reinvigorated about this series. The Leafs clearly aren’t only looking at moving their rentals, they’re thinking big picture, and one of those big picture moves could be shipping out Jonathan Bernier.
Last week we touched on the possible destinations for James
Reimer and via social media, and our lovely TLN comment section the location
that many people preferred for him was that he stay in Toronto. Clearly there
are contract issues, and injury issues that need to be considered before that
becomes a reality, but there’s also the matter of whether it makes sense for
the Leafs to remain committed to both Bernier and Reimer next season. There’s
also the matter of whether Bernier is the even the right fit in Toronto whether
Reimer is in the picture or not.
While you can certainly argue, and very reasonably I might
add, that teams may not be interested in a goaltender who has struggled to
maintain a .900 save percentage, lost his starting job, and is making over $4M
a season, you can also argue that there are teams that would be interested in a
former 1st round pick, who is only 27, and has a career save
percentage of .914.
Flames are an easy one to start with for a few reasons.
First off, they scouted Bernier earlier in the year after his AHL conditioning
stint was up. They also have two free agent goaltenders in Karri Ramo and Jonas
Hiller that are unlikely to be back next season. The Flames are also not yet in
serious contender mode, so they would likely want go with a goaltender who is
on the younger side of his prime.
At the time when Bernier was being looked at by the Flames,
it seemed that the Leafs would essentially be paying the Flames to Bernier
away. The Leafs would absorb one of the goaltending contracts, and possibly
someone else to make Bernier go away. Since that point we’ve seen Bernier have
two shutouts and carry a .935 save percentage through January. It’s also worth
noting that Bernier has always done better against Western Conference teams,
and shipping him out just to get rid of him is ridiculous.
Knowing that, you’re still not going to get a great return
for Bernier, and you’re in luck because the Flames don’t have a lot of good or
great players to spare. At best you’re picking from their supply of long shot
prospects, and might have a chance to do a little better on the deal if you’re
willing to entertain the idea of taking back Mason Raymond, Ladislav Smid, or
literally almost any non-RFA contract on the Flames as part of the transaction.
Pieces: F Emile Poirer; F Bill Arnold; D Keegan Kanzig
Dumps: Too many to list, but Ladislav Smid (2yrs, $3.5M); Deryk Engelland
(2yrs, $2.9M); Mason Raymond (2yrs, $3.15M); Brandon Bollig (2yrs, $1.25M);
Jonas Hiller (1yr, $4.5M); Karri Ramo (1yr, $3.8M)
The Sabres decided to take a chance on a young backup who
wanted more playing time when they brought in Robin Lehner. When Lehner’s been
healthy, he’s been good, but we’re talking seven games out of 53.
Bringing in additional help might make sense for the Sabres,
and it’s safe to say that Bernier would be a better option to run with long
term than Chad Johnson.
Buffalo is going to be a team, like the Leafs, that is very
protective of giving up on its futures, even those that might project more as
depth at this point, and a goaltender deal within the division is tough sell.
It doesn’t change the fact that from the Leafs point of view, this is a team
with the assets to make something work.
Pieces: F Nic Baptiste; F William Carrier; D Jerome Leduc
Dumps: Cody McCormick (2yr, $1.5M)
Whenever an option presents itself to add a goaltender with
question marks and use them essentially as a number one guy without merit, the
Oilers will pounce on it. They’ve foolishly committed to Cam Talbot after a
nice little streak, they seem set to jettison Anders Nilsson, and they’d have
to be damn fools to bring Laurent Brossoit into Edmonton next year unless they’ve
radically overhauled the rest of their roster.
Enter Bernier as a one season stop gap. Bernier and Talbot
might give the Oilers at least respectable netminding, and in theory one of
them does well enough to exist in a tandem with Brossoit beyond next season.
Like the other teams I’ve mentioned, this is a team that’s going to be
reluctant to give up what the Leafs want, but the Oilers are also entering much
more of a desperation for phase then the previous teams so better players might
be available, especially if the deal was made bigger to address some of the
other Oilers needs.
Pieces: F Anton Slepyshev; F Greg Chase
Dumps: Andrew Ference (2 yrs, $3.25M); Nikita Nikitin (1yr, $4.5M); MARK FAYNE!!!(3yr, $3.65M)
You’ll notice that Fayne is in bold here. Fayne is a decent albeit
overpaid right handed shot defenseman who cleared waivers earlier this year. If
dumping Fayne is something the Oilers are looking to do, and you can get a
better return by having Fayne in the deal. You do this. You do this with a
smile on your face.
The Canes were a potential landing spot for Reimer, but they
make almost as much sense for Bernier. The Canes have had horrendous
goaltending from Lack and Ward, and while Bernier’s numbers are actually worse
than both of them this season, he’s easily been better than Ward over the past
few seasons, and with only one year of contract left, he’s a worthwhile
consideration for Carolina would still be better off going with a younger
goaltender rather than getting into free agency bidding wars over Karri Ramo.
As for what the Leafs want from Carolina, I think we’ve
covered this in a lot of the previous destinations posts since it’s easy to
find a match with Carolina. The one option I’d truly be interested in exploring
though, is whether the deal could be made bigger to have the Leafs bring in
Jeff Skinner. A 23 year old goal scorer is a worthwhile addition, and if he is
being made available like he’s often rumoured to be, a goaltender could be part
of a few pieces that make the deal possible.
Pieces: F Jeff Skinner; F Lucas Wallmark; F Carter Sandlak
Dumps: James Wisniewski (2yr, $5.5M); Cam Ward (1yr, $6.3M)
Something, something long term injury effects. Something,
something, could never be the same. Something, something, exiting his prime.
The Montreal Canadiens are a longshot option, but with a
potential question mark being placed next to what was once their greatest
strength, it’s hard to imagine that Mike Condon would be their first choice for
a Plan B next season.
Bernier is a local boy who can come in and help them close
out the season and take a bigger load off of Price next year where he won’t be
forced into an excessive number of starts. Bernier may also turn into a future
asset for the Habs if they make him appear to be ready for another try at a
As for the assets the Leafs would want, the most logical
option to me is Lars Eller. He’s a perfectly decent player who’s in desperate
need of a change of scenery, and cap hit and term is relatively close to
Pieces: F Lars Eller; D John Scott
Dumps: Ben Scrivens (1yr, $1.748M);