Mark Giordano deserves a thunderous ovation from Leafs fans on opening night next season.
The 38-year-old defenseman just took a massive hometown discount to return to Toronto for the next two seasons, signing for just $50k over the league minimum.
The former captain of the Calgary Flames and Seattle Kraken was acquired at the trade deadline along with Colin Blackwell for two second-round picks and a third-round pick. He was an undeniably steady presence on the back-end across 20 regular-season games and seven playoff games, produced 14 points in those 27 appearances, and looked overqualified for a third-pairing role.
The Leafs owned 61.6% of the game’s five-on-five expected goals when Giordano was on the ice in his 20-game stint and 60.8% of the actual goals. Sheldon Keefe used him on both special teams units, and he formed a great third-pairing with the right-handed Timothy Liljegren at five-on-five. He also enjoyed a fair amount of success with Justin Holl in the playoffs. While we haven’t seen it in Toronto yet, he has plenty of experience playing with TJ Brodie from their Calgary days.
Per Cap Friendly, Giordano’s estimated career earnings to date is $61.8 million. While he’s not the Norris-calibre player that he once was, he likely could have made 3-4 times as much by taking the best offer on the open market. There’s virtually no risk for the Leafs here, as even if his play declines over the next two seasons, he’s paid like a cheap seventh defenseman.
Giordano posted 11.5 Goals Above Replacement (GAR) last season according to Evolving Hockey, which ranked 29th out of 164 NHL defencemen with over 1000 minutes. He didn’t grade out quite as well in terms of expected goals above replacement (xGAR), but he still ranked 61st out of 164. While he frequently played against top competition with Seattle, we can expect him to play behind Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin on the left side.
It will be interesting to see what impact this has on the 22-year-old Rasmus Sandin, who didn’t get into the playoff lineup after healing from an injury. Both Rielly and Muzzin have full no-trade protection. Perhaps Sandin or Rielly could move over to the right side, but Sandin didn’t look great in his brief audition there. Giordano is also capable of quarterbacking the second power-play unit — and even spent a spell on the top unit in Game 5 in the playoffs. If the Leafs go all-in this offseason, I wonder if they will listen to offers on Sandin.
In a cap world, 32 NHL teams are competing to see who can make the most out of $82.5 million in space. Players with bargain contracts are incredibly valuable, which is the reason why Brandon Hagel was traded for two first-round picks. The Giordano trade already looked like a strong move for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs front office; this extension makes it look even better.
Mark Giordano, along with Jason Spezza and Michael Bunting, deserve a ton of credit for taking less money to help their chances of winning with their hometown team. It’s tough to see this as anything but a massive win for the Maple Leafs.