While Washington’s Braden Holtby is set to cash in on a long-term deal in free agency this summer, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier isn’t in quite the same position, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.
In a guest appearance on Dean Blundell & Co. on Friday, Friedman said that Bernier’s best course of action would be to accept a short-term deal with the Maple Leafs this summer in order to rebuild his value and essentially bet on himself.
“I would aim to have a great year and make them pay me because I don’t think the team (at this time) is willing to go long term at a big number,” Friedman said on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “If I was Bernier, I would take a chance and go short term.”
Generally, a 26-year-old starting goaltender would be in line for a significant bump in salary but Bernier’s camp won’t have much bargaining power in negotiations this summer after the netminder had down season, registering a 21-28-7 record with a .912 save percentage and 2.87 goals-against average in 58 games with Toronto.
“He had a rough year,” Friedman said of Bernier. “The team wasn’t good in front of him and that was part of it, but there weren’t too many games where you said (Jonathan) Bernier stole them.”
Bernier, scheduled to be a restricted free agent at the end of the 2014-15 season, carried a salary cap hit of $2.9 million in each of the past two seasons with Toronto.
The status of Bernier is among a handful of critical decisions the Maple Leafs have to make this summer. The future of core players such as Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf remains up in the air while Toronto has a long list of free agents including forwards Nazem Kadri (RFA), David Booth (UFA) and Richard Panik (UFA).
The Maple Leafs have yet to hire a replacement for Dave Nonis at the general manager position or a head coach to replace Peter Horachek after the club finished 15th in the Eastern Conference with a 30-44-8 record.