What seemed like an inevitable off-season move actually happened Sunday morning, when the Kings traded backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for forward Matt Frattin, goalie Ben Scrivens and a second-round draft pick in either 2014 or ’15.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said he considered parting with Bernier last year, but held off making the move because of concerns about Jonathan Quick’s fitness after off-season back surgery plus worries about the lockout-compressed season.
“Dave was very aggressive as soon as the lockout ended,” Lombardi said during a conference call with reporters, referring to Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis. “We talked a number of times. I didn’t feel good about the timing of it because of the lockout.”
Bernier served as a capable backup and the Kings could not have had the season they had without him, according to Lombardi. Quick, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the MVP of the playoffs, did not start the 2012-13 season well, but improved his play in time for the postseason.
“He was clearly instrumental in helping us get to the playoffs,” Lombardi said of Bernier, who was 9-3-1 with a 1.88 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage last season. “We were talking about this deal eight months ago. I’m glad I didn’t move Jonathan Bernier at the time.”
Bernier is set to become a free agent next month and the Maples Leafs must negotiate a new contract with him. The Kings cleared space under the salary cap in order to fulfill Lombardi’s stated desire to keep as much of their roster intact for next season and beyond.
The Kings paid Bernier $1.525 million this past season. Frattin made $850,000 last season with the Maple Leafs, and Scrivens made $600,000. Lombardi confirmed reports from Toronto that the Maple Leafs could pick up portions of their salaries going forward.
Lombardi previously agreed to contract extensions with defensemen Slava Voynov ($25 million, six years) and Robyn Regehr ($6 million, two years). Left wing Dustin Penner and defenseman Rob Scuderi are eligible to become free agents.
By trading Bernier, Lombardi granted the goalie’s wish to compete for a No. 1 position. Bernier was stuck behind Quick and as long as Quick remained healthy and productive, there was zero chance Bernier could move into a No. 1 role with the Kings.
“Obviously, I’m very excited,” Bernier told the Canadian sports network TSN. “Going to Toronto I think is a great challenge. They’ve got a really good young team and, hopefully, I can fit in and have some success with them.”
It remains to be seen what the Maple Leafs will do with current No. 1 goalie James Reimer, who signed a three-season contract extension in June 2011.
Lombardi indicated Scrivens would serve as Quick’s backup, filling the same role as with the Maple Leafs. The Kings GM also said he liked Frattin’s aggressive style of play and believed he would fit with the team’s hard-hitting method of operation.
“Watching him in the playoffs, I was impressed how often he ran into (Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno) Chara,” Lombardi said of Frattin. “He could be a good fit for us. This is an unfinished product. He’s got some (skills) that are hard to find.”