New Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Lou Lamoriello had his first big contract test with Jonathan Bernier. Well, his first big test with his new team. In the arbitration hearing, Lamoriello shot waaaaay low. Bernier shot high with their asking prices.
And in the end, both ended up settling on their own terms for two years at $8.3 million, which comes to $4.15 million per-year. The Leafs asked for $2.89 million in the arb case, while Bernier went for $5.1 million.
The hearing took place Friday.
Fair? Not fair? He had a 2.87 goals against average last season. He had a .912 save percentage. But the Maple Leafs were horrible. As Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston notes, this isn’t exactly ‘break the bank’ money. This is the 24th largest salary cap hit amongst goaltenders in the NHL.
His prior contract was for two years at $5.8 million.
The Maple Leafs also filed for arbitration on Bernier, and not vice-versa, so the thought was such a hearing would give Toronto more leverage. Maybe that wasn’t as much of the case? If the arbitrator ruled, it would have been for one year – and Bernier would have been an unrestricted free agent next summer, rather than in two years.
Regardless, Bernier now gets two years to prove that he’s a legit starter – which is kind of mind blowing for a guy who is 26. And if Bernier finally shows his prodigious talent that made him the No. 11 overall pick in the 2006 draft – he also had a .923 save percentage with the Leafs in 2013-14 – then Toronto has a steal on its roster. Or at least a moderately priced trading chip if a contending team needs a goaltender off a rebuilding group.
And then Bernier can cash in on UFA status in two years.
So really, when you get down to it, this is a pretty decent deal for all parties involved. Maybe that Lou does know what he’s doing after all.
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