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LA Kings Trade Jonathan Bernier To Toronto: Good Deal For Both Teams

Now Former Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Bernier
has been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
(click above to view larger image)
Photo: David Sheehan/FrozenRoyalty.net

LOS ANGELES — On June 23, Los Angeles Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi finally gave his backup goaltender the chance he wanted to become a number one netminder in the National Hockey League when he sent Jonathan Bernier to the Toronto Maple Leafs, in exchange for right wing Matt Frattin, goaltender Ben Scrivens, and a 2014 or 2015 second round selection (Maple Leafs get to choose which year) in the NHL Draft.

Bernier was the Kings’ first round pick (11th overall) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, and was widely expected to be their future in goal. But Jonathan Quick exploded onto the scene in 2008-09, and quickly established himself as the Kings’ top netminder, launching himself into elite status when he led the Kings to the first Stanley Cup Championship in franchise history in 2011-12.

In 62 regular season games, all with the Kings, Bernier, 24, earned a 29-20-6 record, a 2.36 goals-against average (GAA), a .912 save percentage, and six shutouts.

He finally appeared in a playoff game this season, a relief appearance in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, at Chicago, stopping all nine shots he faced in a 4-2 loss.

Frattin, 25, who is considered to be a power forward, played in 25 regular season games for the Maple Leafs this season, scoring seven goals and contributing six assists for 13 points, with a +6 plus/minus rating, and four penalty minutes.

Frattin missed twelve games this season due to an injury to the medial collateral ligament in his left knee. He first injured the knee while playing for the Toronto Marlies of the American Hockey League (Maple Leafs’ primary minor league affiliate) during the 2011-12 playoffs. He underwent surgery in June 2012, and missed the start of the 2012-13 AHL season.

Frattin was recalled by the Maple Leafs on January 24, 2013, but he re-injured the knee, and underwent another surgical procedure in mid-February. He was activated from injured reserve on March 9.

In 15 regular season games after returning to the lineup, Frattin, who was selected by the Maple Leafs in the fourth round (99th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, recorded just three assists. Prior to that, he scored seven goals and added three assists for ten points in ten games.

In six playoff games this season, Frattin contributed two assists in six games.

In 56 regular season games with the Maple Leafs in 2011-12, Frattin scored eight goals and added seven assists for 15 points, with a -4 plus/minus rating and 25 penalty minutes.

In 82 NHL regular season games, all with the Maple Leafs, the 6-0, 200-pound native of Edmonton has scored 15 goals with 13 assists for 28 points, with a +1 plus/minus rating and 29 penalty minutes.

Scrivens, 26, played in twenty regular season games with the Maple Leafs this season, earning a 7-9-0 record, with a 2.69 GAA, a .915 save percentage, and two shutouts.

In 39 regular season games with the Marlies this season, the 6-2, 192-pound native of Spruce-Grove, Alberta was 14-7-1, with a 2.22 GAA, a .917 save percentage, and two shutouts.

Scrivens, who went undrafted, but was signed by the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2010, also saw action in twelve regular season games in 2011-12, earning a 4-5-0 record, with a 3.13 GAA, and a .903 save percentage.

Prior to his professional career, Scrivens played for Cornell University, where he was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2009-10, his senior season.

Leafs Coveted Bernier For Some Time

Like all young netminders, Bernier wanted to become a number one goaltender in the NHL, and he knew that was not going to happen in Los Angeles, not with Quick ahead of him. As such, he requested a trade late in the 2011-12 season, prior to the start of the playoffs.

At the time, Lombardi felt that the time was not right to trade him, and he continued to believe that through the abbreviated 2013 season, especially since Quick was a question mark after off-season back surgery.

But none of that stopped Maple Leafs general manager David Nonis, who Lombardi indicated was trying to acquire Bernier “since last year.”

“David was very aggressive on this, going back to the beginning of last year, as soon as the lockout ended, and I don’t blame him,” said Lombardi. “This is a good, young goalie.”

“Last year, we had talked a number of times, but at the time, from my perspective, I wasn’t completely convinced that it was time to move him,” added Lombardi. “I just didn’t feel good about the timing of it for the team, and then, with the lockout and everything. In the end, thank God I didn’t move him, because he was clearly instrumental in us making the playoffs. Quick struggled, at times.”

“It’s fair to say that as soon as David got the job [as Toronto’s general manager], he was, by far, the most persistent. When the season ended, we picked it up again. So it might be safe to say that we’ve been talking about this for eight months. But in the end, like I said, I’m glad that I didn’t move Bernier, at the time, because he was really good this year, and was instrumental in us making the playoffs.”

Lombardi indicated that several teams were trying to get their hands on Bernier, but the Maple Leafs offered the best deal.

“It was a very difficult deal to make,” said Lombardi. “There was a lot of due diligence, a tremendous amount of phone calls to narrow it down to the teams who were serious, and then finally pulling the trigger [after being] convinced that this was the best deal you were going to get.”

Deal Was About More Than Giving Bernier His Shot

In similar fashion to what he did for veteran winger Simon Gagne—trading him to a team he knew he would be happy with (Philadelphia Flyers), Lombardi dealt Bernier to a team that would give him the opportunity to be their starting goaltender.

But it was not easy to part with Bernier, who was Lombardi’s first draft pick after he became the Kings general manager in April 2006.

“The hard part on this one was that first, we came to the conclusion that after this year, we were going to have to move [Bernier],” Lombardi explained. “It was very clear that he had asked to be moved last year, but again, we convinced him to [stick around and] do the best he [could], which was an obligation to the team that he fulfilled to a tee.”

“In fairness, we knew that he deserved a chance to be a number one, and like I’ve been saying through this process, unfortunately, in today’s game, you’re not allowed to have a Grant Fuhr and an Andy Moog, [as the Edmonton Oilers had during their dynasty years],” Lombardi elaborated. “It’s almost like what you see in the [National Football League]. I don’t know who can have two number one quarterbacks. So that’s the reality of what I’m dealing with. Then, you just work through the process.”

“What made it difficult is that you have to run—and I don’t particularly relish these deals, because you don’t start out with a ‘hockey deal.’ It’s almost an asset deal, so it’s very different discussion with general managers. You’re running an auction here.”

With the 2013-14 salary cap dropping by about $6 million, and with the Kings feeling the big squeeze with a relative boatload of players with expiring contracts, including restricted and unrestricted free agents, the deal was as much about fitting contracts under the cap as it was about getting good value in return.

“Part of the mix here, too, is not only moving a goalie and getting what you can, but making the contracts coming back your way fit,” Lombardi stressed. “So getting the backup goalie, who we feel can be solid, and who we feel has some upside, and then also, the contracts for both players fit within the scheme of what we have to accomplish here, going forward, to keep our own players. So it’s not only that getting a backup goalie was important. It’s that he’s a guy who we believe has some upside, and will be good in that role as he continues to improve. But also, the contracts allow us to continue to focus on keeping this team together.”

“When you say you’re running an asset deal, those assets you’re evaluating, are also being evaluated in terms of fitting within the scheme of keeping your team together in an era [where] that is very difficult, because of the radical change of the cap coming down [significantly],” Lombardi added.

Frattin will earn $925,000 next season, and will be eligible for restricted free agency in July 2014. Scirvens will earn $612,000 next season, and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency after that.

Various reports out of Toronto indicated that the Maple Leafs have retained $500,000 of Frattin’s and Scrivensrsquo;s salaries ($462,500 for Frattin and $62,500 for Scrivens, according to CapGeek.com). If you do the math, their salaries combined come out to about $1.04 million, providing the Kings some salary cap relief

Lombardi would not confirm that the Maple Leafs have retained any of salary, but he did not deny it, either.

“It’s fair to say that would be something I would’ve looked at, given what I just spoke about regarding contracts, keeping the team together, and trying to get the best deal,” he said. “Arguably, if that’s accurate, then it fits within the scheme of what I’m trying to do.”

Although Frattin is still developing into an NHL player, Lombardi indicated that there is a lot of upside to him.

“This is a kid who we know well,” he said. “I’ve been impressed with him since his career [with the University of North Dakota]. We had a very good book on him. He kept finding us when he was at North Dakota. This was a guy who I actually tried to trade for two years ago, when he was just coming out of school.”

“What happened here, when you’re doing this deal, I had two or three players who are comparable, in terms of players hockey people would say, ‘you know, this is close,’” he added. “That was how we narrowed it down, before I went to the other issues that pushed this deal over the hump. What he does, and what we’re hoping, and like a lot of young players, number one, he’s got to improve defensively, and again, like a lot of young players, be consistent. That said, there’s a lot of tools here to work with.”

“If anybody’s seen him, he shows up in scoring areas, he’s got that knack of being in the right place. He’s got a great release, he certainly upgrades our speed, and he’s got some grit.”

Not shying away from physical play also made Frattin a good fit.

“When we went to the marketplace, we wanted to stay within our M.O. (mode of operation) of guys who can play—in this conference too,” Lombardi noted. “We saw how critical it is that you’re capable of dealing with the St. Louis’ and the San Jose’s. He fit that M.O., and I think if you watched him during the playoffs, how often he ran into [Boston Bruins’ 6-9, 255-pound defenseman Zdeno] Chara. I’m not saying you’re going to move that guy, but just the fact that he showed a willingness to do that—there’s a lot to work with here. That’s kind of what was attractive to us, and we think that with our centers and things, that this could be a good fit for us.”

Lombardi warned that Frattin still has a lot of developing ahead of him.

“He’s young, so that fit, and like I said, this is an unfinished product, but universally, on our staff, we really tracked this kid,” said Lombardi. “He’s got some spots. Got to learn to be a pro. But there’s a lot to work with here if we can keep him on the right track. He’s got some things that are hard to find. But it’s still all about becoming a pro. I think he’s the type of kid that I think [Kings head coach] Darryl [Sutter] will also find a way to get to.”

Both Teams Benefit

There has been a great deal of chatter about this trade being a lousy deal coming from both Los Angeles and Toronto. Some panned Bernier as not being a legitimate number one goaltender prospect, while others were highly critical of Lombardi for not being able to get a proven top six forward in exchange.

Frozen Royalty’s reaction: Really?

For the Maple Leafs, Bernier may be unproven at the NHL level, but he possesses elite-level skills, which he was not going to get to showcase often enough with the Kings. What he brings to Toronto, and various outlets are reporting this to be exactly what Nonis has in mind, is to create competition between him and James Reimer. Whether Bernier wins the number one goalie job for the Maple Leafs this Fall, or he motivates Reimer enough to pick up his game further and retain the starter’s job, the Maple Leafs get what they need.

For the Kings, anyone expecting Lombardi to get a proven top six forward in return drastically overvalued Bernier, as his lack of NHL experience had a negative impact on his trade value. Also keep in mind that although he possesses elite-level skills, he is not an elite player. Indeed, it takes more than possessing elite-level skills to be an elite player in the NHL. More important, such consideration has to be earned, and playing in 62 NHL games, let alone as a backup goalie, is nowhere near enough.

Other significant factors contributed to lowering Bernier’s trade value, especially in terms of getting a proven, top six forward in exchange:

  • Bernier requested to be traded; everyone knew the Kings had to trade him.
  • Lombardi had to get a serviceable backup goalie to replace Bernier.
  • Bernier’s contract expires in a couple of weeks; he is due to become a restricted free agent on July 5. His contract status added to the urgency for the Kings get a deal done before that date.

Lombardi also noted that potential number one goaltenders have lower trade value than one might think.

“It’s very difficult to get value for a number one goalie,” he explained. “We see this time and time again, and I’ve mentioned this once before when I knew, back in the old days, when there was going to be a problem with [Miika Kiprusoff and [Evgeni Nabokov, both with the San Jose Sharks while Lombardi was their general manager]. It’s very difficult to get market value for a guy who’s going to be a number one. But you do the best you can, and like I said, this was the best deal.”

“Toronto was certainly aggressive, but you get a number one goalie, you can’t put a price tag on that, and you see the success we’ve had and the importance of our goaltender, but sometimes it seems it’s not sexy to trade for goalies,” he added. “It seems that there’s that sentiment out there, like Scotty Bowman said, ‘you don’t appreciate them until you ain’t got one.’ So, again, I think this is a good deal for both teams, given the circumstances.”

As for how this trade impacts other personnel moves the Kings must make this summer, look for a new story on that later today or tonight.

More On Sutter’s Double Hernia Surgery

As originally reported by KCBS-TV 2’s Andrea Fujii here in Los Angeles, Sutter recently underwent robotic surgery to repair a double hernia.

Lombardi indicated that Sutter suffered from the problem for some time.

“You know what? I don’t want him to get any sympathy at all,” said Lombardi. “That stubborn…whatever…he clearly was aware of this last year, and during the lockout he was told to have it taken care of. As we know, sometimes it’s not going to go away. So not only did he do one of his finest coaching jobs—I can remember how many mornings he’d come in, and he was in pain, but he wouldn’t let anybody know, and I told him at that time, ‘You’ve got no sympathy from me, buddy, because this could’ve been done back in November, but you just didn’t want to do it.’”

“He was in a lot of pain there this week, but no sympathy, [and] I don’t want you guys (the media) giving him any, either,” added Lombardi. “But if you had gone through the year—there were some mornings I know he was hurting, and you talk about players playing injured—I mean this guy was injured, and he was still [working] every day and nobody knew. But I remember sometimes he couldn’t get up.”

Lombardi said that Sutter thought the problem might just disappear on its own.

“It’s like, ‘it’s going to go away.’ What!? There’s your classic Western Canadian,” said Lombardi. “He’ll fight you right to the end. The other thing, too, he said, ‘Well, I want to set an example to the players that I can play injured, so I want to set an example.’ Hey, good job. So you’ve proven to your players that you can perform injured, so I don’t want you giving him any sympathy for this when you’re talking to him.”

Frozen Royalty’s Jonathan Bernier Coverage

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6 Responses to LA Kings Trade Jonathan Bernier To Toronto: Good Deal For Both Teams

  1. Andros says:

    Gann, when does training camp start for the Kings? Would you have any idea as to when, sir?

    • Gann Matsuda says:

      Training camp begins on September 11, 2013. No idea if that’s physical testing day (all off-ice), or if that’s the first day of on-ice work. Educated guess is that it’s the former.

  2. Pingback: Frozen Royalty Audio: Media Conference Call With Matt Frattin And Ben Scirvens | Frozen Royalty

  3. Pingback: Is Forgotten Right Wing Prospect Bud Holloway On His Way Back To The LA Kings? | Frozen Royalty

  4. Pingback: Newly-Acquired Backup Goalie Ben Scrivens Is Looking To Learn Through Osmosis With LA Kings | Frozen Royalty

  5. Pingback: Losing Scrambly Play Has Helped Ben Scrivens Shine In Goal For LA Kings | Frozen Royalty

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