Jonathan Bernier was a polarizing figure in Toronto ever since his arrival.
When the Leafs traded Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, and a second round pick for Bernier, who was an unsigned RFA, many fans were confused by the deal. At the time of the trade, Bernier's career save percentage wasn't dramatically better than that of Scrivens, and was actually worse than Reimer's. With a rebuilding team, why trade away young(ish) players and a draft pick?
At the time of the Bernier deal (summer, 2013), the numbers looked thusly:
But save percentage isn't everything, we were told. We had to consider Bernier's pedigree. We had to consider that scouts could judge a goalie best.
Since the Bernier trade, here are the numbers:
It turns out that everyone was wrong. Bernier wasn't really better than Reimer, and Scrivens wasn't a viable option even as a backup. There are mitigating factors to some of these numbers (ex. Reimer's concussions or Scrivens playing most of that time with the Oilers), but in the end, three things became clear:
1) What the Leafs gave up to get Bernier was totally fair. Neither Frattin nor Scrivens did anything, and a 2nd round pick just wasn't a lot to pay for league average goaltending.
2) Too many people (Randy Carlyle in particular) were too quick to anoint Bernier as the designated starter, and too many people are trying to tell us that Bernier is a garbage goalie now. Both he and Reimer struggled when the Leafs changed goalie coaches. First Reimer, then Bernier. People are too fickle.
3) Last season notwithstanding, Bernier is probably still a decent goalie. A change of goalie coach will probably benefit him.
Now, Bernier has been dealt in what we are told is basically a part of the Frederik Andersen trade.
Bernier was not included in the Andersen trade because Leafs had to pay a $2-million bonus on July 1. But that's essentially what happened.— James Mirtle (@mirtle) July 8, 2016
OK. So now the trade for Andersen looks like this:
|To Toronto||To Anaheim|
|Frederik Andersen||30th overall pick|
|Conditional pick||2nd round pick in 2017|
Despite Bernier's struggles last year, over the last three years he's been a .915 goalie, so expecting him to bounce back with another goalie coach seems reasonable. As such, seeing Bernier as only a salary dump seems not quite right. The team is certainly selling low on him, but he should still hold some value. Overall, this trade seems costly for the Leafs - though we admittedly don't know what the conditional pick will be - since it's plausible they're only upgrading from a .915 to a .918 goalie who is only one year younger than Bernier.
Hopefully, Leafs' fans will give Andersen a longer leash than either Reimer or Bernier when he inevitably has a rough stretch of games, because notions of increased consistency are probably bunk:
"Andersen is far more consistent and shows more promise than Bernier did!"— Weirdneal (@Weirdneal) July 8, 2016
Admittedly, at the scale the above graph is at, it's hard to see the small differences that can be significant for goaltenders in the NHL, but the larger point remains: half a bad season from a goalie (Bernier only played 38 games last year) is no reason to give up on him, and we should remember the same about the good/bad times to come with Andersen.
So, to recap
Bernier was acquired and dealt for very little, and trading away Reimer netted the Leafs next to nothing. Though we can grumble about Reimer's trade being a part of the Polak trade, that's really just our own speculation. The Andersen trade, on the other hand, cost a couple real assets: the 30th overall pick, Bernier himself (who should hold some value), and yes, the 2nd.
While the cost of acquiring Andersen certainly didn't break the prospect/pick bank for the Leafs, it seems that they've overpaid somewhat to secure his services, and have potentially over-committed on his contract. I still have confidence in this management group, but that doesn't mean I won't be critical of moves they make.
Over the course of his tenure in Toronto, Bernier was an entirely competent goalie who, as far as we all know, did nothing but his best to help the Leafs win, and for this, we have to thank him. Last season was rough, but it was rough for the whole team and he had a new coach, and so I think that cursing him as he's on his way out of town is misguided. I wish Bernier nothing but the best in Anaheim, though with Randy Carlyle at the helm, his prospects of success are in a sense perhaps even more grim than in Toronto.