Bernier Happy To Get Fresh Start In Toronto
TORONTO -- On first blush, you'd think members of Jonathan Bernier's family would be delighted to trade their Los Angeles Kings jerseys for those of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That wouldn't be so hard to swallow.
It's a little more complicated, however.
The 24-year-old goaltender, who was traded Sunday to the Maple Leafs by the Los Angeles Kings, grew up in Montreal and most of his family members are diehard fans of the Canadiens. At least they were.
"They are all pretty much saying the same thing -- we have to switch jerseys," Bernier said with a laugh. "I'm sure they'll all do it. I don't know if they'll like it, but it's going to be great to be playing closer to home so my family can come and watch me play."
Bernier, who was selected with the 11th pick of the first round in the 2006 NHL Draft by the Kings, was dealt to Toronto for right winger Matt Frattin, backup goaltender Ben Scrivens and a second round pick in the 2014 or 2015 Entry Draft.
The Maple Leafs have been in the market for a goalie upgrade, or at the very least somebody to push James Reimer for the starting job, and many believe Bernier has No. 1 potential. Former general manager Brian Burke was said to be in on the Roberto Luongo sweepstakes a year ago, and current GM Dave Nonis tried to acquire veteran goalie Miikka Kiprusoff from the Calgary Flames at the trade deadline.
"I'm very happy, obviously," Bernier said. "Toronto has always been a great market; especially with the good young team they have now. It feels kind of like L.A. when I first got there in that we all grew up together. Hopefully I can fit in right away."
Bernier put up solid numbers for the Kings this season, including a 9-3-1 record with a sparkling 1.88 goals-against average and .922 save percentage with one shutout. However, he was not able to unseat Jonathan Quick for the starter's job and it was clear if he was ever to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, it was going to have to be with another organization.
It has been reported the New York Islanders and Philadelphia Flyers were also making bids to get Bernier, but Kings' GM Dean Lombardi liked the package being offered by Toronto.
"Dean promised me that he was going to trade me when we spoke at the beginning of the season," Bernier said. "He said if it was not at the trade deadline he would do it after the season. He kept his word and obviously I was very happy he did."
Reimer, 25, will be entering his fourth season with the Maple Leafs next year. Coming off a season in which he was 19-8-5 with a 2.46 GAA and .924 save percentage, the Morweena, Man., native remains a work in progress, often struggling with his rebound control and catching pucks with his trapper. Bernier, who was named MVP in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs in 2006-07 and the American Hockey League's best goalie in 2009-10, believes a new start in Toronto is just what the doctor ordered.
"I went through some ups and downs in L.A., but they treated me very well and I'm thankful for that," Bernier said. "This is a new challenge and I'm going to show people what I can do. At the same time I'll be with a great goalie in Reimer, so it's not going to be easy. I just have to do what I know I can do and hopefully have success."
The 6-foot, 200 pound Frattin, who is 25, has top-six potential in the NHL and is a solid two-way performer. In 25 games with the Maple Leafs this season he had seven goals and 13 points, and then added two assists in six playoff games. Scrivens, 26, helped the Toronto Marlies to the Calder Cup Final last season and is 11-14-2 in 32 NHL games the past two seasons.
Author: Mike Brophy | NHL.com Correspondent