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Maple Leafs Rumours: On Jonathan Bernier, The Oilers, Jake Gardiner, And The Trade Silly Season

Either Dave Nonis is crazy, or Nick Kypreos is, or The Fans are, or all 3.

Is Somebody Taking Crazy Pills?
Is Somebody Taking Crazy Pills?
Bruce Bennett

We're all used to this by now. The yearly brain dump that happens after the season ends for the Leafs and the draft quickly approaches as the Stanley Cup playoffs wind down towards yet another Cup victory for a team that isn't from Toronto (this may only last until another team is moved by or granted to investors in the GTA - but for now we can call this a yearly ritual).

Basically the norm here is that fans take to HFBoards, Bleacher Report or some other defecate equivalent and spout absurd trade ideas that somehow relieve the Leafs of their worst possible players (in the minds of the inventor) in exchange for maximum return that frankly only happens when you give up your first born child and the right to sleep with Niklas Hagman's wife in a bizarro version of indecent proposal (little known fact - this is how we convinced Daryl Sutter to make the Phaneuf trade).

So far in this recent round of insanity we have Nick Kypreos suggesting that the Leafs are in the mix on the movement of Jonathan Bernier by the LA Kings.

This only seems absurd on the part of the media until you read the following from the mouth of Dave Nonis via Kevin McGran of the Toronto Star:

The Leafs are reportedly among five teams kicking the tires on the Kings backup goalie. The smart money has Bernier going to the Flyers if they buy out Ilya Bryzgalov. Nonis did not deny interest. "Our goaltending was solid last year," said Nonis. "Reimer did a very good job. Ben (Scrivens) did a good job early and in relief. It’s not a situation where we feel compelled to do something, but if there’s an opportunity to improve we’ll look to do it."

- Kevin Mcgran June 19, 2013

So apparently the Leafs are considering trading for Jonathan Bernier - a goalie with 62 career NHL regular season games played and a .912 SV% (oh and 1 playoff game where he faced 9 shots in a relief role) - to "improve" on James Reimer - a goalie with 104 career NHL regular season games played and a .915 SV% (despite a significant downturn due to concussion issues in year 2) along with another 7 NHL playoff games this past off-season with a .923 SV%. Bernier has a .913 career save percentage on 1562 shots, while Reimer has a .916 total save percentage on 3375 shots when you combined regular season and playoff games.

Both goalies were drafted in 2006, though Reimer is slightly older at 25 as his birthday is on March 15th, while Bernier's is August 7th. Bernier was the 11th overall selection (pedigree! it means so much! right Marc-Andre Fleury?!) while Reimer was selected 99th. In other words - there is virtually NO reason to assert that Bernier is an improvement on Reimer, unless the measuring stick you plan on using is their draft ranking in 2006 (which was 7 years ago).

Only 6 NHL goalies have managed to post 2 seasons with 30+ games played and a .920+ SV% over the past three years, and one of those 6 goalies is Tim Thomas. The only goalie to do it all 3 years is Henrik Lundqvist. The other 4 goalies are Jimmy Howard, Pekka Rinne, Corey Schneider, and JAMES REIMER. You could probably put Tuukka Rask into this echelon as he was sitting behind Thomas in the Bruins depth charts prior to this year. Heck, only 23 NHL goalies have managed this feat ONCE in the past three seasons, and Bernier isn't one of them.

Unless you're replacing Reimer with an EQUIVALENT goalie, I don't see how there is ANY chance this is an improvement. That basically means you're replacing him with one of those 23 guys, and since Bernier isn't one of them (i.e. not a proven NHL starter yet) then there's no logical justification for this being seen as an "improvement" in your starting goaltending.

The only way this makes any sense for the Leafs is if Bernier is coming in as a backup upgrade over Scrivens - in which case, why the hell would Bernier be ok with it? Reimer's regular season numbers aren't much worse than Jonathan Quick's over the past 3 years so I don't see why we'd assume this is an improvement in Bernier's outlook.

So yeah - that trade suggestion makes no sense. What else is on the horizon? Oh right - 2 days - 2 weird trade rumours. Next up is the Oiler's rumour courtesy - yet again - Nick Kypreos (seriously - is he trying to put @HockeyInsiderr and Eklund out of work?).

Thanks to the new Dallas Eakins link in Edmonton, it makes some level of sense to consider the idea that Edmonton will be looking to pick out key pieces from the Leafs farm system. This rumour has in turn led to speculation on the part of Edmonton Journal writer David Staples:

"Just idle speculation? Possibly. Probably."

"Kypreos, though, is a real NHL insider, part of the village of 300 or so insiders who regularly hear what’s going on."

"And it’s interesting that Kypreos had the Oilers targeting a defenceman, a specific position."

"The only way it makes sense for the Oilers to move the pick is to get a useful Top 4 defenceman or Top 6 forward in return."

"Who might that defenceman be on the Leafs?"

"The Leafs have four d-men in that category right now, their top four minute munchers per game Dion Phaneuf, Michael Kostka, Carl Gunnarsson, and Jake Gardiner."

"Gardiner, 22, shoots left, has offensive talent and can play the puck possession game MacTavish talks about wanting the Oilers to play. Gunnarsson, 26, also shoots left, and is more of a shut-down type defenceman."

- David Staples, June 19 2013

Here's a quick run down on why this proposal makes too much sense for the Oilers and very little sense for the Leafs:

1. The Oilers get a top young puck moving defender - from the perspective of win now this makes some sense as they get to add a piece that is ready to play in the NHL right now and win right now with their young core. Gardiner (if he's the piece going the other way) also played with Justin Schultz at Wisconsin University in the NCAA, where the two of them formed a top defending pair over three years. The familiarity and skill level of the pair would be formidable going forward and makes almost too much sense for the Oilers to NOT be gunning for this to happen. Unfortunately this is exactly why the 7th overall pick is NOT enough to make this happen.

2. If the Leafs pick 7th overall they basically get another shot at drafting another top prospect like Morgan Rielly or Matt Finn (the two top D men they selected at last year's draft). They may prefer to select a forward this time around, but at the cost of one of their top 2 D prospects it makes very little sense because they're likely waiting for an 18 year old to develop into an NHL player that can contribute - a player that won't hit their stride until their early 20's in all likelihood, which means waiting between 2 to 6 years for the guy to be of use to them on a regular basis.

Let's remember that Jake Gardiner is 22 now, but he was taken in the 1st round of the 2008 entry draft (17th overall) - that was 6 years ago, and he's just NOW entering the period where he'll best contribute to an NHL franchise. Joe Colborne was taken in the same 1st round (16th overall), and he too is just looking ready to enter the NHL as a player. you get players like Luke Schenn, Erik Karlsson, Tyler Myers, Alex Pieterangelo, Michael Del Zotto, Luca Sbisa, Jordan Eberle, Steven Stamkos, Drew Doughty, Zach Bagosian, Colin Wilson, and John Carlson in the first round of a deep draft like 2008, so you have a chance of landing a guy who contributes down the line - but those guys are JUST entering their primes now.

3. The fact that both teams are basically in the same position organizationally from a "window" perspective. The Oilers and Leafs have both finished near the bottom of the standings with regularity over the past 5-10 years. Both teams have been trying to stock pile young talent, but are heading into a time frame where the expectation is to be competitive year in and year out. The Leafs will not help this if they tear off a contributing piece from their core in exchange for yet another top draft pick.

So in summary, if the Leafs are sincerely contemplating trading Gardiner for the 7th overall pick they need to give their head a shake, and then NOT make the trade. Alternatively, if Kypreos is suffering from a slow news cycle on the trade rumour front, maybe he should shake the trees a little bit harder because it seems like he's making this stuff up as he goes along.

I get wanting the Leafs to make changes. I personally want them to: make a move to add a top 4 D man; cut ties between the organization and Tyler "The Face Offs Aren't Worth It" Bozak; and make sure they re-sign Clarke MacArthur, in no particular order. Somehow I think my interest in all of these thinks makes their likelihood virtually nil, but that's the oppressive defeatist in me talking.

Lets try to keep the rumours sane folks... we're not the Philadelphia Flyers.