Toronto Maple Leafs Could Let Jonathan Bernier Go


Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier has filed for salary arbitration and his case is worth watching closely.  Bernier has asked for $5.1 million while the Leafs have countered with $2.89 million, both numbers according to

While there’s no doubt any goaltender playing behind the Toronto Maple Leafs defense last year deserves a raise, Bernier isn’t getting near the $5.1 million.  While that would only make him the 19th-highest paid goalie in the league, he isn’t get that money from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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With the rebuild going on in Toronto, the might not pay him the lower end of this contract either.  It’s not that the Toronto Maple Leafs need him to hit the cap floor; they have Nathan Horton for that.  Why when you know your team will be terrible by design would you lock up a goaltender on a long-term deal?

While puts Bernier and the Toronto Maple Leafs in the arbitration hearing.  The splits on Bernier aren’t that bad which helps his cause but the Leafs aren’t necessarily playing for better this season.  Or possibly next, but we won’t know that much until the season gets going.  If this is a long-term plan in Toronto, time is not on Bernier’s side.

Bernier is 26 now and, for the sake of argument, lets say he and the Toronto Maple Leafs come together on a three-year deal around $4 million per season, which would be almost exactly the average of both sides arbitration-filed number.  At the end of that deal Bernier is 29 and the Toronto Maple Leafs are where, exactly?  The number is reasonable but are the Leafs going to be playoff contenders in three years?

Maybe not.  Remember the team tried very hard to move Dion Phaneuf, whom is under contract at a $7 million through 2021.  Nazem Kadri is on a one-year deal in a crossroads season.  The rest of the Toronto Maple Leafs offense are unrestricted free agents after three years.

While the future looks brighter led by William Nylander and Mitch Marner, the roster around them will look very different in three years.  That might not be for the better, which brings us back to Bernier.  Is it wise to invest in a goaltender, even one that could be very good, with so many questions about the team?

It puts Bernier’s request in perspective.  If he is going to play with the Toronto Maple Leafs and be a human piñata, he wants to be compensated.  The arbitrator can see that one of two ways, neither of which ends well for this partnership.

If the hearing favors the Toronto Maple Leafs, a frustrated Bernier could ask for a trade.  It wouldn’t be the first time the Bernier camp thought of playing elsewhere.  Getting an offer from the team substantially under what he played for in 2013-14 won’t help either.  All this may lead to a trade before the season starts.

If the hearing favors Bernier and he is anywhere over $4.25 million, the Leafs could trade him.  It wouldn’t be the worst thing for the franchise since Bernier would still bring a decent return in any trade, but Bernier would be easier to trade at a lower number.

Bernier’s trade value is the only incentive for both sides to come together.  Work out a short-term deal and find a partner where you can get what you can for him.  Draft picks or prospects would be ideal, or a veteran goaltender at a lower cost with a pick included.

Both sides don’t have long to figure it out.  The hearing is scheduled for Friday, July 31st.  After both sides are heard, a decision will be made within 48 hours.  By this weekend there will be a clearer picture of Bernier’s future.  I don’t believe the Toronto Maple Leafs want it to be with them.

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