James Reimer is going to have some more competition in the Toronto Maple Leafs crease next season.
The Leafs pulled off the first big trade of the NHL off-season on Sunday morning, landing highly touted young netminder Jonathan Bernier from the Los Angeles Kings and ending GM Dave Nonis’s long hunt for depth in goal.
In exchange, Toronto gave up a trio of assets in goaltender Ben Scrivens, winger Matt Frattin and a second-round pick in 2014 or 2015.
The Leafs will also retain $500,000 in salary on their cap next season as part of the deal.
“Going to Toronto is a great challenge,” Bernier told ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun soon after the deal was made. “They’ve got a really good young team and hopefully I can fit in and have some success with them.”
The Leafs have been pursuing another goaltender for more than a year, dating back to the 2012 draft when former GM Brian Burke was after Vancouver Canucks veteran Robert Luongo.
Then, even as Reimer had a career year as Toronto’s No. 1 this season, Leafs GM Dave Nonis continued that search, as he attempted to land Calgary Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff at the trade deadline.
The Leafs were one of several teams in the mix for Bernier the past 12 months, with the 24-year-old looking to escape LA and get out from behind Jonathan Quick in order for more opportunity elsewhere.
“This has been ongoing,” Kings assistant GM Ron Hextall said of trade talks with Toronto. “We liked their pieces, they liked our piece and it’s been ongoing for I want to say months.”
Bernier comes to Toronto with a very strong pedigree but just 62 NHL games played. He was drafted 11th overall in 2006 and was named the AHL’s outstanding netminder in 2010 as part of a strong two season run in the minors.
Since then, however, he has seen limited duty in the crease, part of a situation that came to a head last year when he started just 13 of 82 games.
Bernier’s career NHL save percentage of .912 puts him between Reimer (.915) and Scrivens (.910) in what is a small sample size for all three.
At the AHL level, however, Bernier had the best numbers of the bunch: .927 save percentage compared to .923 for Scrivens and .920 for Reimer.
He is also the youngest goalie of the three, albeit just five months behind Reimer.
Bernier is a restricted free agent and will need a new contract in the coming weeks, although that isn’t expected to be a major issue.
He will undoubtedly cost substantially more than Scrivens’s bargain basement contract that was close to the league minimum salary, meaning Nonis’s has already earmarked some of his cap dollars to the crease for next season.
After the expected buyout of defenceman Mike Komisarek later this week, Toronto will have only 11 players under contract for next season.
Losing Frattin, meanwhile, subtracts another depth forward from the Leafs lineup, which could be down as many as four regulars by the time free agency hits on July 5.
In addition to Frattin, Leo Komarov returned to play in Russia and unrestricted free agents Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak have yet to be re-signed.
Frattin had been a useful contributor in a depth role, tallying 15 goals and 28 points in 82 games played with the Leafs.
The Kings knew Frattin’s game well as Hextall’s son, Brett, played with him at the University of North Dakota for three years.
“Just want to thank the Maple Leafs for a first class experience to start my pro career,” Frattin said on Twitter. “Very excited to join the Kings.”