When the Maple Leafs acquired Jonathan Bernier, he had just 62 games of NHL experience. Andrew Raycroft, 108 games. Vesa Toskala, 115 games. All three of them have presumably been failures with the Blue and White.
Today the Leafs took another shot at the can by acquiring another somewhat inexperienced goaltender in Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks with just 125 games of NHL experience as a 26 year old. In exchange, Anaheim received the 30th overall pick draft and a 2nd round pick in 2017.
Although what is essentially two second round picks isn’t a small price, it’s a fair ask from a team giving away a goaltender with NHL starter potential. In fact, quite a bit of his time in Anaheim was spent as one of the primary goalies. Andersen was never an actual backup with the Ducks, rather often saw time sharing the crease with John Gibson, even in the playoffs.
The bigger discussion in this deal is the confirmation trigger attached to complete the complete the trade. A contract extension with the Leafs, which Andersen signed shortly after. A five-year deal with an annual cap hit of $5M. Right away Toronto chose to go long term, and in doing so accrues a fairly significant risk.
Andersen hasn’t been spectacular in his career. What he has managed to do is consistently be an above average goaltender by posting save percentages like .923, .914, and .919 this past season. All formidable numbers and should be enough to make you believe he will be just fine, but the issue arises when there’s no way to predict how his production wears on through this contract.
You never know how goalies pan out, and age isn’t on Andersen’s side as he is likely to enter his 30’s when and if the Leafs are ready to be called a legitimate shot for Stanley’s silver. However, in no way is acquisition leaning towards the risk more than the gains. Rather, the line just isn’t clear enough for anybody to understand which way it will toll, but Andersen’s short history is one of success and he deserves to be treated based on that production.
What does this mean for Jonathan Bernier? Pretty much what we expected as the past season rolled to its end. The Leafs seem to be done thinking he has much left to provide for this organization. At $4M in his final year, it’s a steep cap hit to keep around for your backup, but I don’t see the Leafs doing anything drastic if they can’t find a trade partner to make a clean swap.
But today the Maple Leafs can say they have their goaltender. No matter what happens with the team, they can count on their goaltender to give them a fighting chance next year. He is signed for the future and as Lou Lamoriello says, “Needs to know he’s the number one goalie.”
The term is a little scary, but the player is someone you should bet on finding success in Toronto.
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