At the end of this playoff-less season, Jonathan Bernier will be up for a brand new contract and will have some decisions to make. Having just completed his second straight season as the Toronto Maple Leafs number one goaltender, it is expected the team will offer him a nice contract when the season ends. However, is staying in Toronto as the Leafs’ top goalie of the future the best move for Bernier’s career?
Whether you blame Bernier’s play or the Leafs defense for many of the woes, either way Bernier has arguably cost himself a significant pay upgrade for next season. His play has not been the greatest and as a result the Leafs have suffered as well in the standings.
The 26-year-old goaltender has been extremely valuable to the Maple Leafs over his tenure with the club and has been pegged as the Leafs’ goaltender of the future. The club would like to extend him if they can, but will Bernier stick around?
Bernier has completed two seasons as a number-one goaltender in the NHL after being stuck behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles and is looking to take the next step in his career.
With the Leafs openly declaring that they are rebuilding the club, staying in Toronto might not be the best option for the goalie. The Leafs might not enter into a five-year rebuilding plan, but the majority of the current team will likely be gone by the end of next season.
At his age, Bernier is a netminder on the rise and is looking to backstop a team to the postseason and eventually into a Stanley Cup Final. The Leafs are going in the exact opposite direction at this point, and Bernier will just be a glorified puck target for the next few seasons. Sticking around in Toronto will not get Bernier where he wants to go and will only keep the media heat squarely on his feet as the No. 1 goalie.
With an average save percentage of .918% over the past two years, Bernier hasn’t posted bad numbers and at times this season he has looked unbeatable. Behind a team with a solid defensive core and given an opportunity to run with games, Bernier can turn into a solid goaltender for any NHL team looking to compete in the postseason.
Having spent years in Los Angeles as a backup, being the top goaltender on a rebuilding team is not likely where Bernier wants to spend the prime of his career.
Leafs management hasn’t been overly satisfied with his play this year and will be looking for a bit of a discount on a deal this offseason, where teams looking for a starting goaltender will be willing to pay more than the Leafs.
So while many are wondering if the Maple Leafs will trade Bernier or offer him a contract in the offseason, the question should be whether or not Bernier even wants to return to the Maple Leafs.