Jonathan Bernier is .500 (47-47-14) in two uneven seasons with the Maple Leafs. (USATSI)
After the Toronto Maple Leafs elected for salary arbitration with starting goaltender Jonathan Bernier, the two sides settled before the arbitrator was able to render a decision. Bernier signed a new two-year deal with the club. His new contract is worth $8.3 million according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.
Ahead of the arbitration hearing, which took place Friday, the Maple Leafs were reportedly offering a $2.89 million contract. It was 85 percent of Bernier’s previous salary ($3.4 million in 2014-15), which is the lowest offer a team can provide in arbitration. Bernier reportedly sought $5.1 million in arbitration.
Though that kind of gulf would suggest contentiousness, the settlement ultimately was a little closer to what Bernier wanted. He got a two-year deal and the $4.15 million he’ll make annually is a raise from $2.9 AAV on his last contract.
The new deal will eat up one year of Bernier’s unrestricted free agency eligibility, but the shorter term on the contract could prove beneficial to both sides.
First off, Bernier is coming off a pretty poor season, only his second as a full-time starter in the NHL. It was a big step back from his performance in 2013-14, which was his first season with Toronto after being acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Kings.
In Bernier’s first season with the Leafs, he posted a 26-19-7 record, .923 save percentage and 2.68 goals-against average. Last season, he registered a 21-28-7 record, .912 save percentage and 2.87 goals-against average. It was significant enough a step back to give any team pause before re-investing.
With such disparity between his first two seasons as a full-time starter, the 26-year-old still has quite a bit to prove. This deal puts Bernier in the lower-third among starging goalies in the league in terms of cap hits. Additionally, the term limits the risk for the rebuilding Maple Leafs. They get two seasons to find out if Bernier is the guy they saw in 2013-14 or the guy they had in 2014-15.
However, if Bernier manages to out-perform his contract over the next two seasons and has the leverage of unrestricted free agency looming after the 2016-17 season, he’ll have a shot at a pretty massive contract. If that does end up happening, the Maple Leafs should be well positioned to give him a longer-term deal at that point.
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