Friday, June 21, 2013

Leafs Interested in Kings' Jonathan Bernier

jonathan bernier kings leafs trade rumour
With the upcoming end to the Stanley Cup playoffs, rumour time is ramping up, and the latest report indicates the Leafs are one of three teams in the running for the LA Kings' Jonathan Bernier.

GM Dean Lombardi told Bernier he owed the young netminder a chance to be a starter somewhere else, and has begun exploring trade options for the 2006 11th overall pick.

Much like the rumoured Miikka Kiprusoff trade at the deadline, the deal makes little sense for the Maple Leafs.

James Reimer erased any reasonable doubt about his ability to be a No. 1 netminder for the Leafs, brushing off an injury-plagued 2011-12 and posting a .924 save percentage in 2013, seventh best in the league. After more than 100 games of NHL experience, and a career average save percentage of .915, Reimer can legitimately be expected to at least provide average goaltending going forward, and he's already proved capable of better.

Proof, via Steve Burch at Pension Plan Puppets:

"Only 6 NHL goalies have managed to post 2 seasons with 30+ games played and a .920+ SV% over the past three years, and one of those 6 goalies is Tim Thomas. The only goalie to do it all 3 years is Henrik Lundqvist. The other 4 goalies are Jimmy Howard, Pekka Rinne, Corey Schneider, and JAMES REIMER. You could probably put Tuukka Rask into this echelon as he was sitting behind Thomas in the Bruins depth charts prior to this year. Heck, only 23 NHL goalies have managed this feat ONCE in the past three seasons, and Bernier isn't one of them."

Bernier was drafted the same year as Reimer, but has played in 42 fewer games, has never been a No. 1 goalie, and has posted worse career numbers (career .912 save percentage). In no way is Bernier an upgrade over Reimer, so why pursue him so vigorously?

Anthony Petrielli at Maple Leafs Hot Stove suggests the recent talk of Bernier, and previously Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo, might be because the Leafs are worried about Reimer's ability to withstand an entire 82-game season.

"Since playing junior, Reimer has played over 60 games once and that was during the 2006-07 season. This season Reimer got hurt, last season Reimer got hurt, and the season before that he played a combined 52 games."

Although guarding against a Reimer injury seems practical, the cost to acquire Bernier would be high (Bob McKenzie thought a combination of Matt Frattin and a pick/prospect would be the asking price), and the Leafs would need to re-sign the RFA to a new deal, cutting into cap space desperately needed to upgrade the defence. It is also completely unnecessary. Ben Scrivens has proven himself worthy of a backup role and played well enough in his brief stints as a starter last year that heading into the season with a Reimer-Scrivens tandem is ideal.

In 20 games last year, Scrivens registered a .915 save percentage, better than the league average mark of .912. Over his career, Scrivens has a .910 save percentage, only slightly below Bernier's .912 mark.

Scrivens' AHL stats also compare favourably to Bernier's. In 111 career AHL games, including playoffs, Scrivens has a .925 save percentage, compared to Bernier's .928 mark in 134 games.

In comparison to other young goalies, Scrivens has put up better career AHL numbers than highly touted Ottawa prospect Robin Lehner (.922 in 114 games), Florida prospect Jacob Markstrom (.917 in 110 games), Washington's Braden Holtby (.915 in 141 games), and Tampa Bay's newly acquired starting goalie Ben Bishop (.913 in 176 games). Admittedly, Scrivens was older when he posted those numbers, but many goalies break into the NHL later and have solid careers (Niklas Backstrom and Jonas Hiller being two current examples). Ben Scrivens has played better in the minor leagues than a handful of some of the league's more promising young players, and has a track record of NHL success.

At this point Reimer has proved he's a legitimate No. 1 goalie, regardless of the false narratives many in the mainstream media spin, and Scrivens has enough of a track record to trust in a 1B role. Bernier might have the hype, but the Leafs already have the help.

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