The Anaheim Ducks have acquired goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the Toronto Maple Leafs, effectively ending their search for a backup goaltender. Anaheim had to fill that void, and Bernier fits the bill while bringing some added veteran experience behind John Gibson.
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) July 8, 2016
The Ducks will have to absorb his $2.3 millon cap hit though, which brings their cap room down to $9.97 million, leaving them little wiggle room to re-sign both Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell while adding more talent through free agency. If the Bernier trade is any indication though, general manager Bob Murray might be done using free agency to fill out his roster (which might not be a bad thing).
After a promising start to his career with the Los Angeles Kings, Bernier found himself struggling mightily in Toronto. So much so, in fact, that he was even relegated to the minors in 2015-16. However, context is everything when discussing Bernier.
The 27-year-old Quebec native has had to backstop some of the worst teams in Leafs’ history. The Randy Carlyle-led teams posted some of the very worst possession numbers that we’ve seen in the advanced stats era. Not exactly an environment for a goaltender to thrive him.
After playing quite respectably early on in his Toronto stint, Bernier’s numbers absolutely cratered. Perhaps it was the accumulation of facing so many shots a night, or the mental tax of losing so often that did him in. Whatever the case may be, his save percentage plummeted like a bad stock market crash.
A stint in the American Hockey League seemed to re-invigorate him, as he strung together a nice batch of starts towards the end of 15-16. He showed, if anything else, that he’s still capable of playing quality hockey, which some thought was a bygone era for him.
Still, this trade remains a roll of the dice for Anaheim. It’s unlikely they get the Bernier who couldn’t keep a job in the NHL, but it remains to be seen if they can get sustained above-average play from him.
His $2.3 million cap hit isn’t the friendliest either. There were cheaper options out there for Anaheim. Jhonas Enroth, perhaps the best goaltender remaining on the free-agent market, is coming off a $1.25 million contract. That small difference is significant for a Ducks’ team with a severely constricted cap sheet.
Bernier’s ceiling is higher than Enroth’s though, and the conditional draft pick he cost the Ducks is essentially peanuts. With an elite blue line in front of him, there’s real reason to believe that he can find consistency to his game again. Anaheim had better hope so.