A New Masked Possibility
Brian Burke came from Anaheim and the Ducks quickly became a favourite trading partner of the Maple Leafs, delivering Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and Mark Fraser over a period of time.
Now Tim Leiweke arrives from Los Angeles and - yup, you guessed it - the Kings and Leafs have done a deal.
Just sayin'. . .
Actually, it seems extremely unlikely that Leiweke greased the wheels on a trade that Dave Nonis has been pursuing for several months. Instead, the fact the Leafs ended the post-season still uncertain about whether James Reimer is a bona fide No. 1 goalie combined with the fact that the Kings couldn't score to save their lives in the playoffs meant that a young scoring winger like Matt Frattin was attractive to GM Dean Lombardi.
The best part of this deal getting done? No more rumours of Roberto Luongo to Toronto, not because Luongo would have been a bad addition or wouldn't have done well as a Leaf, but because the Leafs were never going to pay the price demanded in Mike Gillis's fantasy world and it was time to turn the page on even the possibility of Luongo becoming a Leaf.
Gillis always insisted he had multiple teams interested in his very expensive backup goalie. Now, presumably, he'll go to one of those clubs and extract the price he believes he can get. Or be forced to go down a more humiliating path, a compliance buyout for a ridiculous contract that Gillis negotiated.
Nonis already traded for Luongo once when the Canucks were growing into a good team, and now he makes another swap for a Montreal-area netminder in the hopes he'll solidify that position for another young team.
Of course, if Bernier turns into what Luongo became as a Canuck, the Leafs will be thrilled with this deal.
But really, at this point there's not much hard evidence that Bernier will be better than Ben Scrivens, now a King along with Frattin, let alone Reimer. It's just a guess that Bernier is set to make an impact, really, because there's just not the body of work there from him to reach any meaningful conclusions.
Clearly, no other team was willing to relinquish a first round pick or a bluechip prospect. The 24-year-old Bernier has only 62 regular season games under his belt as an NHLer and just 30 minutes of playoff experience, so he's still very much an unknown.
And if any team should have learned by now to beware of backup goalies that look like starters but have never been, it's the Leafs.
But the key part is the Leafs aren't anointing Bernier as the starter, which makes this a reasonable chance to take without giving up assets the Leafs couldn't afford to give up.
Scrivens was a college free agent who has done better already as a pro than most believed he would. You won't find too many who project him to be an NHL starter, although the kid has yet to fail at any level of the sport.
Frattin was the Leafs' best scorer at the beginning of this season, but then a minor knee problem sidelined him for a few weeks and he never recaptured his game. The Leafs were constantly pushing him to be a more physical player, and while there were times he demonstrated an ability to land big hits, Randy Carlyle and his staff couldn't coax it out of the former University of North Dakota forward on a consistent basis.
In Tyler Biggs and Josh Leivo, the Leafs believe they have two big right-hand shooting forwards that could be ready for NHL work in a year or two. Jerry D'Amigo and David Broll are other Leaf prospects on the wing who could soon push for an NHL roster position.
Seven years after Ed Belfour left town, meanwhile, the Leafs are still searching for that proven No. 1 between the pipes. Reimer certainly had moments this season when he looked like he may be that goalie, but clearly Nonis, Carlyle and the rest of Leaf management weren't convinced or they wouldn't have made this deal.
Let's just say blowing a 4-1 lead to the Bruins to lose Game 7 in the first round, while not completely or even primarily Reimer's fault, just wasn't a performance that inspired belief.
Interestingly, Reimer and Bernier actually competed for playing time once before with Team Canada at 2011 world championships when Nonis was the GM and Ken Hitchcock the head coach.
Reimer started the early games, but ultimately Bernier won the job and played in the 2-1 quarterfinal loss to Russia that spring.
Bernier's numbers were very good in L.A., but he was never able to take much playing time away from Jonathan Quick, nothing to be ashamed about since Quick might be the best in the NHL right now.
Bernier's got the pedigree as a former first rounder to at least be a solid bet. After years of patching and hoping with the likes of Andrew Raycroft, J.S. Aubin, Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustafsson, this represents at the very least the possibility that the Leafs can ease the uncertainty in the crease for a few seasons.