With James Reimer’s negotiations settling on Friday, only Jake Gardiner remains of the Leafs‘ outstanding contract situations, and this contract quietly might be most interesting among all of the Leafs‘ RFAs this off-season. Do the Maple Leafs bridge him with a 2 year deal or buy some UFA years on a long term contract, pay a little more than they would have in the next few seasons, and hope it pays off down the road?

The comparative thinking here being that $4.25 million for James van Riemsdyk until 2018 is ridiculously good value. We could also point out that the Buffalo Sabres probably wish they bridged Tyler Myers instead of going long term after his ELC expired. It’s harder to project with young defencemen, too, given ability to play bigger minutes against tough competition becomes the judgment call as opposed to projecting based mostly on point production.

It’s not always as doable at a price that makes sense. From the player’s perspective, it seems crazier and crazier deals are doled out to UFAs with every passing off-season and a young talent like Gardiner would be remiss to sign away his golden ticket UFA years if the offer is well below what he considers commensurate to his talent and potential. Last off season, the Leafs entertained the idea of a long-term deal with Nazem Kadri but found the salary demands were a little too rich and risky for their liking given Kadri was still under 100 games played in his NHL career — he was also in the awkward position of having produced nearly a point per game in a half-season sample in a more sheltered role.

What will the Leafs do with their like-aged defenceman?

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