"There's always a gamble when you're taking a young player, but we felt that the gamble was worth taking with the upside that we think that Jonathan has," Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said.
Seven years ago Monday, the Boston Bruins took a gamble, too. They sent veteran goalie Andrew Raycroft to Toronto for the rights to first-round draft pick Tuukka Rask.
Now, Rask is in the Stanley Cup final with the Bruins while the Maple Leafs go into the off-season hoping that a tandem of Bernier and James Reimer can get the job done.
"We feel we've got two of the top young goaltenders in the league right now," Nonis said. "I don't think you can be deep enough at that position."
Former Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. was dealing from depth in 2006. Prospect Justin Pogge had just finished a season with the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League in which he went 38-10-6 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .926 save percentage, and 26-year-old Mikael Tellqvist was also in the system.
Rask was the Maple Leafs' pick at No. 21, and though he was ranked high, he represented something of an unknown. So much so that when the Raycroft trade happened, Bruins interim GM Jeff Gorton considered taking forward Jiri Tlusty instead.
"It was like Tlusty or Rask for Raycroft," said Peter Chiarelli, who became Boston's GM in July 2006. "There was a lot of discussion at both ends about it. It was decided that it would be Rask from Boston's end."
Raycroft gave up the most goals in the NHL in 2006-07 and lasted only two seasons in Toronto. Rask was Tim Thomas' backup on Boston's 2011 Cup-winning team and is now a legitimate elite goaltender.
At the tale end of a long playoff run with the Bruins, the trade is far from Rask's mind.
"I was just happy to be part of any organization at that point," Rask said. "Maybe they saw something."
Now, the Maple Leafs see something in Bernier, who is more established at this level than Rask was then. Nonis hopes Toronto can cash in on Bernier's "pedigree of success."
"He's still young and I still think that he's got a long way to go in terms of development," he said. "A lot of goalies continue to get better well into their late 20s and early 30s, and I think that that's something we can expect from him, as well."