One Year Later: The Jonathan Bernier Trade

Photo: Associated Press

By Thomas Harrington

One year ago today, the Anaheim Ducks acquired Jonathan Bernier from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for a conditional 2017 draft pick. There were four separate conditions on that pick. First, if Bernier started at least half of Anaheim’s playoff games and the Ducks won the Stanley Cup, Toronto would receive a second round pick. Second, if Bernier started at least half of Anaheim’s playoff games and the Ducks lost in the Stanley Cup Final, Toronto would receive a third-round pick. Third, if Anaheim were to trade Bernier to a team that won the Stanley Cup and he started at least half of their playoff games, Toronto would receive a second round pick. Finally, if Anaheim were to trade Bernier to a team that lost in the Stanley Cup Final and he started at least half of their playoff games, Toronto would receive a third-round pick. Since none of these things came to pass, the Ducks received Bernier for nothing. However, this trade was tied to the Frederik Andersen deal the two teams had made a couple weeks previous. This part of the deal was delayed because of the bonus that Bernier was owed on July 1st. The Ducks didn’t want to pay it but were happy to take the cap hit off of Toronto’s books for the season. So when the two trades are combined, it reads as Anaheim acquired Bernier, a 2016 first round pick used on Sam Steel, and a 2017 second round pick used on Maxime Comtois for Andersen. For just this trade specifically, though, the Leafs received nothing, except for a large amount of cap space.

The Leafs had acquired Bernier from Los Angeles back in 2013. Toronto sent Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, and a 2015 second round pick to LA for the goaltender. Before acquiring Bernier, Toronto had used Scrivens, James Reimer, Jussi Rynnas, Jonas Gustavsson, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, and Joey McDonald in net; that was all between 2010 and 2013. Bernier was supposed to be the answer, but he struggled during his tenure with the Leafs. He appeared in 151 games and had a record of 59-68-17 with a goals against average(GAA) of 2.80, a save percentage(SV%) of .915, and six shutouts over three seasons. Clearly, Bernier wasn’t Toronto’s long-term answer in goal. They decided to look elsewhere and settled on Andersen.

In Anaheim, Bernier only needed to be John Gibson’s backup, and for the most part, he was successful in that role. He appeared in 39 games with the Ducks and went 21-7-4 with a 2.50 GAA, .915 SV%, and two shutouts. His numbers weren’t spectacular, but he had a great win-loss record. When Gibson was injured late in the season, Bernier stepped up and played a ton down the stretch. He was one of the primary reasons why Anaheim won its fifth straight division title.

Apart from a few really poor games, Bernier was really what the Ducks needed out of a backup–in the regular season. In the playoffs, things went significantly worse. To be fair, Bernier played well in the first round against Calgary. When Gibson struggled in game three, Bernier stepped in and helped lead Anaheim to victory in a game when they were trailing 4-1. Bernier stopped all 16 shots he faced, and Anaheim won 5-4 in overtime. However, against Nashville, Gibson got injured in the first period of game five, and Bernier stepped in to replace him. Bernier only allowed two goals, but that was enough for Nashville to secure the victory. In no way do I blame Bernier for the game five loss, but game six is another story. Bernier faced only 16 shots in an elimination game but allowed four goals and Nashville won the series in six games. While the loss is far from entirely his fault, a .750 save percentage in an elimination game is simply not good enough.

This trade is a hard one to judge exactly who won. For Toronto, the cap space they received was nice. The Leafs used it, and more, to sign Andersen to a long-term extension. He played very well in his first season in Toronto, though he struggled early on. It also allowed the Maple Leafs to move on from a player who was clearly not part of their long-term plans. For the Ducks, Bernier was a competent backup and an integral part of their division championship. Without that home ice advantage, it’s possible the Ducks don’t get by Edmonton in the second round. However, Bernier was awful in the final game of the season, leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of Anaheim fans. Still, the Ducks got a backup goalie who, for the most part, played well when their starter was injured, and it didn’t cost them anything. So while neither Toronto nor Anaheim can claim they outright won the deal, both sides can be relatively happy with what they received: a backup goalie for Anaheim and cap space for Toronto.

The Ducks opted to not sign Bernier on July 1st, and he left the team as a free agent. He has since signed a one-year deal in Colorado. To replace him, the Ducks brought in veteran Ryan Miller on a two-year deal.

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July 8th, 2017