The hockey world went a bit nuts this week, as it is wont to do, as the Toronto Maple Leafs found themselves embroiled in a bit of a goaltending controversy. The Leafs called up Garret Sparks in the midst of some horrendous performances by Jonathan Bernier. Sparks put up a shutout in his NHL debut, and Bernier is looking more and more like the odd man out in Toronto.
Meanwhile, the Calgary Flames have struggled to find a legitimate #1 goalie, or even somebody who can carry the mail for awhile reliably. Add to the mix Jon Gillies’ impending hip surgery pushing his progress back a bit and Joni Ortio’s uneven NHL resume to-date, and the Flames have some issues in net going forward.
So, what about Jonathan Bernier in Calgary?
THE CASE FOR CALGARY
Why would the Calgary Flames want Jonathan Bernier on their hockey club?
Well, they don’t have any goaltenders under contract for 2016-17 at the NHL level, and in terms of pro goalies of any stripe they just have Mason McDonald (who’ll be in his first year pro) and Jon Gillies (who’ll be coming into his second year). Considering that none of the three goalies the Flames have tried at the NHL level this season seem like a long-term answer, or even a sufficient bridge to get the Flames to what they hope will be Jon Gillies as starter, the Flames need to grab somebody from somewhere to take the reins for at least a season or two.
In terms of Bernier, he’s a good fit for Calgary. He’s 27. He’s signed for next season at a $4.15 million cap hit. In his NHL career, he’s played 184 games and put up a 76-75-30 record with a 2.66 goals against average and .915 save percentage (.923 at even-strength).
In short: Bernier is younger than both Ramo and Hiller. He’s got a better ability to stop pucks than either Ramo or Hiller (comparing their career save percentages), though that ability has been muted at times this season. Either way, he’d be an upgrade over the Flames current netminders and at the least provide the Flames with a solid bridge for a few years to buy some time for Gillies (or McDonald) to develop into NHL goalies.
THE CASE FOR TORONTO
So, the Flames would love to have Jonathan Bernier. Why the heck would Toronto trade him? Well, they have two goalies in James Reimer and Garret Sparks that they might think are better than Bernier. Both Reimer and Sparks have expiring contracts and will need new deals. And considering Bernier’s price tag, they might be pretty happy to get out from under that deal for next season and be able to throw some of that coin towards their other two goalies.
That said, Bernier’s still an asset with value. He’s not going to be gotten for a pittance. Odds are the Flames would try to swap a goalie for a goalie, so Ramo or Hiller would be the starting point. But if I’m Toronto, I want to get a decent prospect or a mid-range draft pick back – at least – before I get serious about a trade. And considering the number of teams with goaltending issues, there’s likely going to be a few teams calling to kick tires on Bernier, so a low-ball offer probably doesn’t get this deal done.
For reference, the Leafs gave up a decent young goalie (Ben Scrivens), a decent young winger (Matt Frattin) and a second round pick (Travis Dermott) to get Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings two summers ago. And considering that there were rumblings in hockey circles that Bernier may be thrown on waivers – this was prior to his current conditioning stint – the Leafs would surely like to get an asset or two back for him, regardless of how far his star has fallen.
IS IT POSSIBLE?
I think there’s a fit to be found on both sides. That said, Toronto’s not going to give Jonathan Bernier away, so the challenge will be for Brad Treliving to put together a package that works for the Leafs and doesn’t gut the Flames’ prospect depth – aside from Markus Granlund, Morgan Klimchuk, Emile Poirier and maybe Mark Jankowski, the Flames forward prospect group is really thin. He was able to pull a rabbit out of a hat and take advantage of Boston’s desire to get Dougie Hamilton out of town. Now the opportunity exists for him to do the same for a Toronto Maple Leafs team that has two good goalies on their hands that aren’t Jonathan Bernier.