New Leaf Bernier: ‘I was miserable in L.A.’

Former Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Bernier, left, stops a shot by Former Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla. (CP/Jeff McIntosh)

New Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier says he wasn’t happy backing up Jonathan Quick last season with the Los Angeles Kings.

“I was pretty miserable in L.A.,” Bernier told Tim and Sid Thursday on Sportsnet 590 the Fan. “It was really hard. I play hockey to play games and not only practice.”

The 24-year-old was acquired by the Maple Leafs on June 23 in exchange for forward Matt Frattin, backup goalie Ben Scrivens and a second-round draft pick in either the 2014 or 2015 NHL Draft.

The Leafs have the option to choose which year the Kings will take their second rounder.

Bernier’s exit from L.A. was expected and he had a long discussion with Kings general manager Dean Lombardi following the team’s elimination from the Stanley Cup playoffs by the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference final.

“I was expecting to being traded (but) it is always kind of a shock,” Bernier explained. “It’s the first time I’m going through this.”

Many feel Bernier is ready to become a No. 1 goalie but for now it appears the Laval, Que., native will go from battling for playing time in California to doing the same in Ontario.

Bernier will have to win the starting job over incumbent Leafs starter James Reimer, who alongside Dion Phaneuf, is one of only two current Maple Leafs Bernier knows — he met the two while playing for Team Canada at the 2012 world championships.

Bernier said Reimer was the first of his new teammates to reach out to him.

“James was the first guy to text me from the Leafs to say congrats and wish me luck and offer help,” Bernier said.

“It’s a great opportunity to battle with James. Hopefully what I’ve learned in the last three years, I’ll use that to my advantage. Hopefully I’ll play some back-to-back games and get in a groove.”

Growing up in Quebec cheering for the Montreal Canadiens, Bernier is aware of the pressures that come with playing in a big market like Toronto.

“When the media started calling me, then it hit me (how different Toronto will be compared to Los Angeles),” Bernier said. “I guess we’ll see (how it goes). You gotta have fun with it.”

The Leafs have reportedly extended a qualifying offer to Bernier, who is set to become a restricted free agent July 5, and the netminder added that he has had some preliminary contract extension discussion with new president and CEO of Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Tim Leiweke – whom he worked with when Leiweke was with the Kings.

Bernier mentioned that both sides were thinking about a short-term contract before explaining he’d let his agent worry about that kind of stuff.

The former 11th-overall pick from the 2006 Draft has played in 62 career regular-season games generating a 29-20-6 record with a .912 save percentage, 2.36 GAA and six shutouts.

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