Jonathan Bernier traded to Ducks for draft pick
27-year-old played 38 games for Toronto in 2015-16
Three years ago the Toronto Maple Leafs swung a trade with a southern California foe for their hopeful goaltender of the future.
Jonathan Bernier never could meet that expectation though, finally dealt back west to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional pick in the 2017 NHL draft.
The deal concludes a mostly turbulent tenure with the Leafs for the 27-year-old, one that saw him unable to fully ascend into the No. 1 role.
Bernier's agent, Pat Brisson, said the goaltender did not request a trade from the Leafs, but was pleased for the opportunity to start fresh elsewhere.
The 11th overall pick of the 2006 draft, Bernier compiled a respectable .915 save percentage over three seasons in Toronto, his finest points coming in the first half of his first season as a Leaf.
His term was complicated by the struggles of the Leafs more generally. Formerly a homegrown member of the stingy Los Angeles Kings, Bernier was often weighed down by the poor defensive teams he played behind in Toronto.
The Leafs surrendered 36 shots per game in Bernier's first season with the club, the worst mark in the league, and nearly 34 per game a year later, the second worst tally overall.
Toronto improved last season under Mike Babcock, but Bernier failed to follow suit, quickly losing the trust of the new head coach. Bernier started the season with an ugly 0-8-1 record, finally winning his first game on Dec. 19.
That followed a brief and humbling demotion to the American Hockey League. He rebounded some in the second half with a .915 save percentage.
"It was very painful," Bernier said in April of his poor start to the season. "You come to the rink and you don't feel [like] yourself. But I worked really hard to come out of it. I didn't want to be the guy that just tosses in the towel and doesn't work at it.
"I really [wanted] to prove to myself that I can come back from things like that. It definitely makes you a stronger player and stronger person, that's for sure."
He had hoped to be "the guy" for the Leafs next season.
Bernier had one year remaining on a two-year, $8.3-million US deal signed last summer and was presumably set to serve as the backup to new Leafs No. 1 Frederik Andersen.
The Leafs gambled large on the 26-year-old Andersen, not only acquiring the Dane for a pair of draft picks from the Ducks, but signing him to rich five-year deal. The club is betting that he can be the long-term answer in goal, a design he never fully realized in his first three NHL seasons with Anaheim.
Where Toronto turns for the backup role is the next question for the club. Garret Sparks and Antoine Bibeau are internal options, but both are young, inexperienced and likely not ready to play 20-30 games in a secondary NHL role. Sparks, too, struggled mightily in his first NHL stint last season, posting a .893 save percentage.
For Anaheim, Bernier will serve as an experienced backup to 22-year-old rising star John Gibson.