Do the Leafs Need Bernier?

Dave Nonis has made his first big splash as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs… by relinquishing assets on a non-issue.

When training camp kicks off in Toronto it will be James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier battling for the starting goaltender’s role. Ben Scrivens and Matt Frattin will report to the Los Angeles Kings, who also acquired a second-round pick in either 2014 or 2015 in the deal.

The decision is an odd one from the Leafs’ perspective, as Reimer is coming off a season in which he recorded a .924 save percentage in 33 games played, with a .923 SV% in seven playoff games. The 25-year-old has a career .915 SV% in 105 games, while Bernier, who turns 25 in August, has a career .912 SV% in 62 games.

Bernier has pedigree as an 11th overall pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, but he has yet to establish himself thus far, something he’ll hope to rectify in Toronto, which raises an interesting hypothetical scenario. What if both Reimer and Bernier establish themselves as legitimate starting goaltenders?

Some would even argue Reimer has already reached that point, as he has recorded two seasons with a SV% over .920 in his three-year career. What he has yet to do, however, is eclipse the 40-game plateau as a starting goaltender. Perhaps therein lies the reasoning for Nonis’ decision to acquire Bernier, but how is Reimer supposed to hit that mark without the confidence from the Leafs brass?

Pertaining to the hypothetical, it’s logical to assume that if both goaltenders prove to be legitimate starters, one would eventually be traded to get their shot as an undisputed starting goaltender. With that in mind, what’s the issue in handing the reins to Reimer and seeing what he’s capable of throughout an 82-game schedule? Scrivens had a solid season as a back-up goaltender, and even stepped up his game when Reimer fell to injury. If Reimer is injured again or falters, the trade may be a real coup for the Leafs, but relinqiushing assets based on that possibility seems nonsensical.

The package of Scrivens, Frattin and a second-round pick is not a ridiculous price, it’s actually fair, but the issue is that it was used on what was the Leafs’ strongest position last season. The Leafs don’t possess enough assets to simply solidify positions at will, and even now it’s no guarantee. Glaring roles remain at centre and on defence, so it remains to be seen how Nonis will rectify that.

Considering we’re still in June, however, he deserves the rest of the summer to see what’s up his sleeve. Time will tell.