As fans of the Blue and White know, there is almost never a dull moment when it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Much of the early season hoopla has been focused on the Leafs and their issues with goaltending. Jonathan Bernier has been unable to win a game, so the duties fell to James Reimer and young Garret Sparks between the pipes.
Then everything started to unravel. Reimer reaggravated a lower-body injury against the Wild. The Leafs are taking it slow so that another setback doesn’t occur. Bernier was recalled from his stint in the AHL to start against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He ended up stopping 22 of 27 Tampa shots. He wasn’t the picture of stability in goal by any means, and made fans nervous whenever the puck made its way into the Leafs zone.
The Buds ended up losing in overtime by a score of 5-4. Thursday night saw Garret Sparks take the net, but after giving up two quick goals and looking to be in obvious discomfort, Mike Babcock gave the rookie the hook. He was later diagnosed with a lower-body injury that is expected to put him on the shelf for the next few games.
Bernier took to the net against a Sharks squad that easily out-classed the Leafs in the first period. He was able to keep it close and actually looked confident as the game wore on. He made a tremendous glove save against defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who fired a booming shot in the second period of action. The game ended with a familiar result, a 5-4 loss in overtime.
Jonathan Bernier is now 0-8-2 with an .881 save percentage on the year. That's rough.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) December 16, 2015
Rumours were swirling about Bernier potentially being moved to another team. Now, in an odd twist of fate, he’s the teams most proven goaltender left standing. Reimer and Sparks are both hurt and Antonie Bibeau hasn’t made his NHL debut yet. The carousel has stopped spinning, Bernier is the only goalie to step off it intact.
Maple Leafs Trade Rumours
Before the injury to Sparks, there was talk of the Leafs shipping Bernier out to the Calgary Flames. The idea has some merit to it. Calgary is looking for young goaltender still under contract. Both of their current goaltenders, Karri Ramo and Jonas Hiller, are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.
Maybe a change of scenery would do him good? Before the injuries, he had seemingly fallen out of favour with Babcock and Leafs management. Now that he’s the only man left for the job, these trade talks may come off the table.
Unless the Leafs and Flames and serious about getting some type of deal done, it appears Bernier will be the man in the crease for the foreseeable future, or at least until Reimer comes back from his injury. Another way of looking at this is that Reimer has drastically increased his trade value. Maybe he’ll be the goalie traded at the deadline, which is fast approaching at the end of February.
Some Leaf forwards maybe on their way out sooner rather than later. Joffrey Lupul, provided he stays healthy and productive, has two years left on his current deal. Next season he only makes $3.75 million. If the situation is right, he could find himself packaged out at the deadline. Tyler Bozak is another valuable candidate who, if the right deal were to arise, could find himself on another team as well.
There are a lot of rumours and speculation swirling around the Leafs. Most rumous have a little bit of truth to them. It will be interesting to see what direction the rebuild takes as the trade deadline draws ever closer.