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Rumor Roundup: Flames could be a fit for Leafs goalie Bernier

Lyle Richardson
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Jonathan Bernier (Claus Andersen/Getty Images) Author: The Hockey News

Rumors

Rumor Roundup: Flames could be a fit for Leafs goalie Bernier

Lyle Richardson
By:

If Jonathan Bernier's days with the Maple Leafs are numbered, the Flames and Coyotes might be good fits for the struggling goalie.

Jonathan Bernier's recent four-game stint with the Toronto Maple Leafs' AHL team failed to significantly boost his performance at the NHL level. The 27-year-old Bernier gave up five goals on 22 shots in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in his first game back with the Leafs on Tuesday.

Bernier had a better effort in the Leafs overtime loss to the San Jose Sharks on Thursday, giving up three goals on 29 shots. However, he remains winless this season (0-8-3), with a horrid 3.46 goals-against average and .883 save percentage. There's talk Bernier's days with the Leafs could be numbered.

Sportsnet's Luke Fox cites analyst Gord Stellick suggesting Bernier might benefit from a change of scenery, like Devan Dubnyk did last season. Stellick claims there are some teams interested in the netminder.

One of those clubs could be the Calgary Flames. Fox's colleague Mike Johnston cites insider Eric Francis claiming the Flames discussed taking on Bernier's contract, which runs through 2016-17 at an annual cap hit of $4.15 million. Johnston noted Flames president Brian Burke and GM Brad Treliving attended Tuesday's Lightning-Leafs game.

Francis points out the Flames currently have the league's worst goaltending, with their current tandem of Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo eligible for UFA status next summer. He said Bernier is among the goalies the Flames management has discussed because of his potential upside.

Bernier's performance against the Lightning, however, could give them second thoughts. Ramo, meanwhile, has won seven of his last 10 games, backstopping the Flames into playoff contention in the weak Pacific Division.

The salary cap is also a factor. The Flames currently have just over $2.1 million in cap room, meaning they must shed some salary for Bernier's salary. Moving out Ramo or Hiller would create room, but do the Leafs want to take on another struggling netminder simply to ship Bernier out of town? If not, the Flames must find another way to free up some dollars.

If the Flames acquire Bernier or another goaltender, it'll likely happen after the upcoming holiday trade freeze. Burke has a long-standing policy of not trading players a week before the freeze goes into effect.

Perhaps the Arizona Coyotes could take a chance on Bernier. With Mike Smith sidelined by surgery for eight-to-ten weeks, backup Anders Lindback has taken over the starter's job. The Arizona Republic's Sarah McLellan reports GM Don Maloney is considering his options, which includes acquiring a netminder.

Maloney said he's not seeking a quick fix, preferring someone of long-term value to the Coyotes. Though Bernier's only got a year left on his contract, he could possibly become an asset worth keeping if he rejuvenates his game.

The future of center Ryan Johansen with the Columbus Blue Jackets continues to stir up plenty of trade chatter, especially after he was a healthy scratch against the Coyotes on Thursday.

The Columbus Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports there's been talk for weeks that Johansen is on the trade block. For his part, the 23-year-old center insists he doesn't want to be dealt, took responsibility for being scratched and denied he's at loggerheads with coach John Tortorella.

Johansen and Tortorella could work out their differences. SI.com's Allan Muir notes the fiery coach used to clash with center Vincent Lecavalier during their early days with the Lightning. Over time, their improved relationship helped the Lightning win the Stanley Cup in 2004. If things don't improve, however, Muir suggests the Jackets will have little choice but to trade Johansen.

Speculation has already started over where Johansen could be dealt. Matt Larkin lists the Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames, St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild as destinations. TSN's Darren Dreger claims he's heard Western Conference clubs like the Predators, Wild, Blues and Anaheim Ducks were being scouted.

Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun claims teams reached out to the Jackets following word Johansen was scratched from the Coyotes game. However, he notes the center's trade value is currently low, so the Jackets aren't in a hurry to move him.

Such a move, however, could have serious consequences. Muir points out trading Johansen could set the Jackets rebuilding process back by three years. That's certainly true if management doesn't get a decent return. While improvement in Johansen's performance will boost his trade worth, it could also improve his value to the Jackets' roster.

If the Jackets decide to trade Johansen, such a deal isn't likely until closer to the Feb. 29 trade deadline. A better option could be to wait until around the NHL draft in late-June, when there are better opportunities to get a solid return.

Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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Rumor Roundup: Flames could be a fit for Leafs goalie Bernier