The Toronto Maple Leafs have been extremely busy this summer. They had to prepare and deal with a multitude of events, including the NHL Entry Draft and the beginning of the free-agency period. Before the offseason ends, however, they have at least one more important hurdle to jump.
That obstacle is the upcoming arbitration hearing with goaltender Jonathan Bernier, that will take place on July 31 if a deal isn’t reached beforehand. Let’s get into the details of the case and see what each side wants to get out of it.
The Maple Leafs Perspective
It was the Maple Leafs who insisted on taking the 26-year-old netminder to arbitration. The club decided this was the best move for a couple reasons. It shows that the team is committed to the goaltender, who they see potential in, and believe that he could be elite in the near future.
Jonathan Bernier didn't need to be qualified because the #leafs have already filed for team-elected salary arbitration on him.
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 29, 2015
It also gives the Blue and White a measure of protection from a possible long-term contract standoff that had the potential to drag late into the summer and distract from other important matters.
As an NHL player, Bernier is looking for good money and job stability. The native of Laval, Quebec wanted a long-term deal to get done with the club. Based on his last two seasons with the Maple Leafs, a multi-year deal was simply not going to happen.
Bernier had a solid first year with the Leafs. He appeared in 55 games and put up respectable numbers including a 26-19-7 record, a 2.70 goals against average and a .922 save percentage. He followed that up with slightly worse season in 2014-15 (21-28-7, 2.87 GAA and .912 save percentage). It needs to be taken into account that he was also playing behind a team that had more than its fair share of defensive deficiencies, which could be argued hurt his numbers.
Possibly the best bet for Bernier would be the arbitrator settling on a one-season deal with the club. This is assuming the player and club can’t come to an agreement before the hearing. A short arbitration-awarded deal will give the young goalie a year to prove himself to new head coach Mike Babcock, and if he does well, it could earn him a nice payday and new contract in the summer.
The busy summer continues to move along. The Maple Leafs will continue to plug holes that they feel currently exist in the roster. The young netminder is a key part of the Maple Leafs roster. Once the status of his contract is out of the way, it will be time to fully prepare and focus on the upcoming season.