Jake Gardiner Signs for 5 years, $20.25 million

Jake Gardiner Signs for 5 years, $20.25 million

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Photo: Getty Images via NHL.com

 The Maple Leafs and Jake Gardiner have shaken hands on a 5-year contract worth $4.05 million a season.

It’s a similar deal to that of Victor Hedman and Niklas Hjalmarsson, both of whom got around $4 million a season for the next five years coming off their ELCs. Roman Josi recently signed for four million per over 7 years. The Leafs have bought a year of Gardiner’s UFA eligibility, making him a UFA at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Gardiner posted 31 points in 80 games last season, good for 45th in the League among defencemen (and tied with Dion Phaneuf). It was shaping up to be a bit of a down year offensively for Gardiner — he wasn’t alone among the Leafs D, with Phaneuf and Gunnarsson’s shots and point totals well down from their norms, and Franson’s 5v5 production well down – as the Leafs even strength struggles seemed to be particularly crippling for their defencemen’s production levels. The Leafs started more shifts in the defensive zone than any other team last season to the point where Morgan Rielly’s 47% offensive zone starts were the “softest” among the group. The Leafs also couldn’t consistently cycle the puck effectively; that inability to work the puck low and kick it high to the point, in combination with the long spells of sustained own zone time, meant their volume of point shots generated was strikingly low for large chunks of last season.

That one aspect changed for the better somewhat when Carlyle and the staff seemed to give Rielly and Gardiner a bit of a greenlight down the stretch while encouraging more defensive involvement in the offense in general. 14 of Gardiner’s (45%) points came in the final 18 games of the regular season (just 23% of his total games last year). Individually, it’s perhaps not surprising Gardiner had a bit of a slow start given 2012-13 was something of a lost year for him; his injury down with the Marlies preceded struggles to find his form with the big club and he played just 12 games of NHL regular season action in the lockout-shortened year.

Gardiner’s obviously just scratching the surface in terms of what he could achieve offensively; it’s one thing talking about it and another getting there, but 45 pts should be no problem for a defenceman of his talent level in his prime. It’s up to Gardiner now to play his way into deserving this long-term commitment. His natural talents are obviously high end, he’s the Leafs‘ best corsi player, he played over 21 minutes a night last season (2nd behind only Dion), but he’s like many other defencemen his age when it comes to finding season-long relative consistency at a tough position, especially in terms of his decision making and his one on one battles in the tough areas of the ice — Corsi numbers put aside, that stuff matters if Gardiner wants to take the next step.

What’s clear though is that Gardiner is a part of the solution to what ails this team in terms of possession. He’s a new-era defenceman. The persistent narrative about Morgan Rielly potentially making Gardiner expendable is nonsense; I think everyone can agree Gardiner can be a frustrating player, but there’s no such thing as a team having too many young, talented, mobile puck-movers/rushers in the modern game. So is the narrative about Carlyle hating this kid, somehow still out there despite the minutes he played last season.

Relevant (Dubas on what makes a good defenceman):

With that, the Maple Leafs appear to have tied the finishing bow  on their off-season work, barring an unforeseen trade. This will be good value if Gardiner takes the next step he’s clearly capable of taking. He’s already producing at a reasonable rate with good underlying numbers, and it would be shocking if the best isn’t yet to come.

1312 comments
Bruffins
Bruffins

did that play just actually happen?

Pent_House
Pent_House

Goins developing quickly, next challenge will be once the league catches up. 

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

Polak playing with Phaneuf ? Rocks for brains 

NotSince67
NotSince67

Quick question on the cap:

If a player such Petri Kontiola gets sent to the AHL, at 1.1 do the Leafs: Have the full 1.1 M count against the cap, or dot he LEafs get relief for 950k and only have the remaining 150K count against the cap?

Pent_House
Pent_House

Anybody have link on Subban's agent on pts 

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

McGran seems to have the inside track on the Leafs news lately

The_Polish_Cannon
The_Polish_Cannon

@Burtonboy “Steve Spott called a week or two ago, just checked in and introduced himself,” said Gardiner

Spott sounds like an awesome player's coach

Pent_House
Pent_House

@Burtonboy @Pent_House lol this is hilarious, being in the physio biz, and dealing with the lawyers and paras, this guy is spinning, subban will leave the habs 

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Loric76 @Burtonboy Yeah that's true about McGran. He seems to just report the news rather then turning it into an editorial full of your own spin 

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@Loric76 @Mcost61 @Burtonboy I think his source got fired lol and that's what he's pissed off about . We all think it was Nonis but he could have been getting his info from Loiselle or Poulin 

Pent_House
Pent_House

@Bruffins @Pent_House @Burtonboy


he's very matter of fact and when questioned on specific sentiments he just re-phrases the process and conditions, but doesn't really answer.To me it sounds like they'll do a short term deal.