Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier entered training camp on a brand new two-year, $8.3-million contract in 2015-16. This year it appears he’ll be heading into camp with some serious competition for his starting job.
The Maple Leafs announced Monday afternoon they have acquired restricted free agent goaltender Frederik Andersen from the Anaheim Ducks for two draft picks — the first-round, 30th-overall selection in 2016 and a second-round pick in 2017.
Anaheim had long been trying to get Andersen under contract, with GM Bob Murray saying as recently as this past weekend that he was working on getting a deal done. Murray did, however, acknowledge that eventually one of Andersen or John Gibson would have to be moved. With Gibson being the presumptive goaltender of the future, though, it seemed Andersen would be the one sent packing. Monday’s deal makes that official.
The acquisition addresses a definite need for the Maple Leafs, who were hoping to rely on, but were mostly let down by, the play of Bernier this past season.
The 27-year-old posted a 12-21-3 record, 2.88 goals-against average and .908 save percentage, at times was relegated to backup duty behind James Reimer and even lost his spot to Garret Sparks for a brief period. Bernier was one of 36 goaltenders to play 1,500-plus minutes at 5-on-5, per Puckalytics, and the Maple Leafs netminder ranked 34th with a woeful .913 SP. Andersen, on the other hand, ranked 16th with a mark of .930.
Over the past three seasons, the netminders have actually been rather close in 5-on-5 SP, but the gap has widened over the past two campaigns where Andersen’s .924 SP is 15th among the 24 4,000-plus minute goaltenders and Bernier’s .918 SP ranks 22nd.
The biggest adjustment for Andersen, though, will be playing behind a team that isn’t nearly as close to being a Cup contender as the Ducks were. Anaheim may have bowed out in the first round of the post-season, but they were considered among the few top contenders in the Western Conference before a shocking seven-game defeat at the hands of the Nashville Predators. Andersen’s workload will almost certainly see an increase, not only in terms of share of the starts but also in on-ice action.
Per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 ice time this past season, Andersen saw 27.6 shots against. Bernier saw almost exactly four more shots, and he played behind a much weaker team defense. That could pose a problem in the long run, but Andersen looks to be at least a slight improvement over Bernier for the time being.
There will still be the matter of locking up Andersen, but the Maple Leafs have the want and the flexibility to make something work for both sides. Even without Nathan Horton on long-term injured reserve, the Maple Leafs have roughly $7.2 million in cap space available for the upcoming season. The cap is expected to increase, which would give the Maple Leafs more room yet, and there’s a good chance Toronto isn’t through dealing quite yet.
Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Andersen’s average salary is likely to be in the $4.5-million to $5.5-million range. If that’s where the two sides land, Toronto would then have $8.6 million-to-$9.6 million locked up in goaltending.
That likely doesn’t bode well for Bernier’s future, but a change in goal was something the Maple Leafs sorely needed. Andersen’s acquisition sees Toronto address one off-season need. And with Andersen out of one crease battle in Anaheim, it looks like he's about to be part of another in Toronto.
UPDATE: The Maple Leafs have signed Andersen to a five-year deal. McKenzie reported that Andersen's contract is for five years and $25 million. The $5 million cap hit means the Maple Leafs have more than $9 million locked up in goal, though it's possible Bernier could be moved out before the season begins.