Fan Fuel: Bernier’s contract makes him the starter

Fan Fuel's Robert Zuccaro argues that the Toronto Maple Leafs already determined that Jonathan Bernier will be their starting goalie after giving him a $2.9 million salary.


Before training camp began, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle was asked by the media at the club’s charity golf tournament who would be the number one goalie; Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer.

Carlyle once again swatted away speculation by saying the Leafs are going in with a “1A/1B system.” I take one look at both goaltenders and in all honesty, I don’t see that. I see Reimer, a goaltender who continues to establish himself as a starter, and Bernier, an expensive back-up (so far).

The only reason why Bernier can come out and say that he is the number one goaltender is because of his contract. To me, the Leafs don’t have to tell you who they think the starting goaltender is, Bernier’s contract says it all.

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Bernier has played 62 career games in a span of six seasons. He has a save percentage of .912 and a GAA of 2.36. Good solid numbers for a goalie who has the potential to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. Yes, he had a great year. For a back-up. Jonathan Quick played a majority of the games for the Kings, including playoffs last season. That being said, how do you justify Bernier’s $2.9 million salary?

James Reimer has played 104 career games over a span of three seasons. He has a similar save percentage of .915, and a GAA of 2.71. Not to mention, he also has actual playoff experience, taking the Boston Bruins to seven games this past April. Yet he makes $1.8 million a season? Then there are others:

Ray Emery was a back-up himself this season. Going 17-1-0 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He finished the year with 1.94 GAA and a .922 save percentage. His numbers got him a potential starting position which will earn him $1.65 million this season.

Ben Bishop is a year older than Bernier, but he too had a solid season as back-up in Ottawa, before being dealt to the Lightning. Even there, he still had a decent save percentage, similar to Bernier’s. He makes $2.3 million this season.

Then there is Braden Holtby, who has taken over as the starter in Washington. He has taken them to the semifinals twice in his career, has triple the playoff experience of James Reimer. Last year alone in 36 games, he had a 2.58 GAA and a .920 save percentage. Once again, a small fortune of $1.85 million.

So what am I trying to say? How does a back-up goaltender all of a sudden go from making just under a million per season, to almost six million in the next two years? To me it doesn’t make sense to say that Bernier is a better goaltender than Reimer, nor the starting goaltender for the Maple Leafs this season. Things can change, I don’t have crystal ball, and I’m not saying this is what is going to be.

The problem I have is the numbers. The Leafs say one thing, the numbers say something else. If the Leafs want to see the postseason, Carlyle better determine who his starter is sooner rather than later.

Also, just to give you something to chew on, the last time the Leafs traded for a young, inexperienced goaltender, and handed him a multi-year deal north of $5 million in total salary, he ended up being bought out of the final year that deal. That goalie was Andrew Raycroft.

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