Toronto Maple Leafs: The Jonathan Bernier Contract Situation


Lost among the ever-flowing rumors of the entire Toronto Maple Leafs roster being traded is the current contract status of RFA Jonathan Bernier.

Bernier is only months away from having his $2.9M salary cap hit increase. The question is, though, by how much?

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The Bernier camp will no doubt point to the larger sample body of work where Bernier played extremely well – while the Leafs management will counter with that horrific 10-15 game stretch since the clock struck 2015.

The Leafs star goaltender’s status is further complicated by his ability to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.

It’s not going to be a simple negotiation. If I had to pin the power on one camp or the other, I’d place it in Bernier’s.

He has put up solid numbers at even strength since his arrival in Toronto (92.92% 5v5 save percentage) that are just behind Henrik Lundqvist and Braden Holtby. Those same numbers are just above Roberto Luongo and Jonathan Quick.

The many flaws of the team that has been in front of him since he arrived in Toronto is well documented – and will surely be brought up in negotiations to combat his win/loss record.

There are views on Bernier in the media as well.

In Ferraro’s case, the AAV of his $27M-$30M over five years would be $5.4M-$6M. In Kypreos’ take, the AAV for the top 10-15 goaltenders ranges from $5.3M-$5.8M.

Prior to January, the common thought would have easily been to extend Bernier for 5-6 years. Now it seems the Maple Leafs are balking a little at that theory because of his struggles while the team was losing nearly every game.

Bernier has since recovered his game, but that won’t erase the small sample of worry.

Back on January 13th, before things got really out of hand in Toronto, we had a poll on Bernier’s worth.

58% of voters said Bernier was worth between $5M-$6M.

24% said he was worth less than $5M.

18% said he was worth over $6M.

I’m still of the belief that Jonathan Bernier is a superstar goaltender. Everyone has bad stretches and they are further magnified in Toronto.

The goaltending position is important and the stability that Bernier provides – gathered from nearly a 100 game sample – rivals the top names in the National Hockey League.

He gives the Maple Leafs a chance to win and isn’t someone they should let hit free agency any time soon. A contract with a $5M – or close to – AAV might not be a realistic number if the Leafs opt for a one year deal to get a bigger sample from Bernier and he continues to play well.

They played this game with Cody Franson and they lost. They can’t afford to do the same thing with Bernier. A superstar goaltender is something they haven’t had in many, many years.

If you trust the numbers and you recognize his age I think you still need to go with a five year deal and solidify an important position in a rebuild. With stability in goal the Maple Leafs can focus on building the team in front of the net.

Next: Prospect Report: Loov-ing The Defence