After another season of lackluster play between the pipes, the Toronto Maple Leafs must pursue a more reliable goalie before the start of next season. Los Angeles Kings backup Jonathan Bernier would be the perfect target for general manager Brian Burke.
Radio host and NHL insider Andy Strickland reports Bernier requested a trade after the team locked up starter Jonathan Quick to a long-term extension following his impressive playoff performance. That makes Los Angeles an unfavorable situation for Bernier.
In Toronto, he would immediately become the most talented goalie on the roster, putting him in line to take over the starting job. The 23-year-old Canadian has started 42 games during his career, posting a 2.50 GAA and recording five shutouts.
When you consider the numbers that goalies like Jonas Gustavsson, James Reimer, Ben Scrivens and Jussi Rynnas compiled last season for the Leafs, it's clear Bernier would be an immediate upgrade even though he doesn't have extensive starting experience.
It wasn't just a one-year problem for the Leafs, either. The lack of a true No. 1 goalie has plagued the franchise ever since the lockout ended seven seasons ago, making it no surprise Toronto hasn't made the playoffs during that time period.
Bernier doesn't lack talent, that's for sure.
He was drafted with the 11th overall pick back in 2006 and has steadily worked his way up the ladder. The emergence of Quick has halted his progress, however, which makes finding a new team the right move for his career.
While there are risks associated with handing the job over to a player who hasn't been the main guy during his career, it's one well worth taking for the Leafs. Until they solve the goaltending problem, making the playoffs will be a serious uphill battle.
Burke has been around the NHL long enough to understand that a team doesn't need a truly elite goalie to be competitive, but the position also can't be devoid of talent. That's been the case for the past handful of years, and it has to change.
The Leafs have already added some offensive firepower to the mix by trading for James van Riemsdyk. That won't be nearly enough to end the postseason drought, though. There are still several holes to fill, starting in net.
Since Martin Brodeur decided to stay with the New Jersey Devils, and Roberto Luongo continues to seem like a pipe dream, Burke should target Bernier. He doesn't have the name recognition of those two superstars, but he has more upside and should hold down the position for a decade.
His presence would make everybody's job a lot easier. From Burke not having to spend time looking for a new goalie to head coach Randy Carlyle not having to choose between weak options. Even the offense would be relieved knowing it didn't have to produce a bunch of goals just to win a game.
It all adds up to Bernier and the Leafs being a perfect match. He'll finally get his chance to prove he can be a full-time starter, and Toronto would finally have a goalie worthy of that role.
More importantly, it would put the Leafs one step closer to getting back in the playoffs.
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