After a bidding war to acquire the services of 24-year-old Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, it was the Toronto Maple Leafs that finally pulled the trigger on a trade, per ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, and wisely invested in the long-term future of the franchise.
Was this a smart deal for Toronto?
While the Maple Leafs had been connected to the Vancouver Canucks in a possible trade for high-priced veteran Roberto Luongo, the organization proved with the Bernier deal that it is building toward becoming a perennial contender and not masking one of the team’s biggest flaws.
And it’s clear the goalie is happy to be heading to Toronto.
Bernier spoke to ESPN.com about joining the Maple Leafs and how he respects Kings general manager Dean Lombardi for keeping his word by making this deal:
Obviously I'm very excited. Going to Toronto I think is a great challenge. It's great. They've got a really good young team, and hopefully I can fit in and have some success with them[...]I was very happy—Dean is a man of his word. I felt he would keep it, and he did. All the teams in the mix were great teams, but I have to tell you I'm so happy that it's Toronto.
Despite starting just 14 games last season, Bernier was the victim of playing behind another prospect in Jonathan Quick, who the team had shown a complete commitment to with a 10-year, $58 million contract extension.
Playing sporadically would throw most goaltenders off, but with the right attitude and a team-first mentality, Bernier still managed to amass a 9-3-1 record, a save percentage of .922 and a goals-against average of 1.88.
While Bernier was never given the proper chance to shine in an unquestioned starting role, the former backup was still able to amass a very respectable 29-20-6 record, a 2.36 goals-against-average, a .912 save percentage and six shutouts in 62 career regular-season games.
That isn’t the biggest sample to determine and judge how Bernier will react to becoming the No. 1 goalie in hockey-crazed Toronto, but the way he handled falling to No. 2 on the Kings’ netminder depth chart indicates that he has the mental toughness needed to face the intense scrutiny.
Whether Bernier flops for the Maple Leafs or carries the team to its first championship since 1967, the important takeaway from this trade is that the franchise is starting to make smart personnel moves with the future in mind.
The culture in Toronto is finally changing.