Mar 23, 2014; Newark, NJ, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) during second period against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Maple Leafs Extend Jake Gardiner for Five Years, $20.25 Million

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Breathe easy, Leafs Nation. Jake Gardiner isn’t going anywhere.

Apr 3, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) goes to pass the puck against the Boston Bruins at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Boston 4-3 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Maple Leafs showed their love for the young defenceman today by re-signing Gardiner to a five-year deal worth $20.25 million. This should finally put an end to those ridiculous rumours that the Leafs want to trade Gardiner. They obviously have different, long-term plans for him. Accept it.

Gardiner joined the Leafs three seasons ago alongside current teammate Joffrey Lupul from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for veteran defenceman Francois Beauchemin, who never really found his place in Toronto. Since the trade, Gardiner has become a staple on the Leafs’ blue line and joins fellow young defencemen Morgan Rielly as the key to the blue line’s future.

His new contract carries an annual cap hit of $4.05 million, which’ll give the team some financial flexibility in the years ahead.

Last season saw Gardiner establish a new career high in points – he registered 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) across 80 games. This was good enough to tie him with captain Dion Phaneuf for second overall in points among all Leafs defencemen. Cody Franson led the charge with 33 points (5 goals, 28 assists) in 79 games.

Although he’s not very physical, Gardiner’s known as a brilliant skater who can usually dance himself out of trouble. This time he skated himself into a small fortune.

It’s good to see Gardiner return. When added to the return of goaltender James Reimer, this should spell one big headache for head coach Randy Carlyle, which hopefully leads to his exit. Carlyle was critical of Gardiner in his end-of-the-season press conference so the two’ll probably have lots to discuss when training camp opens.

(Does anyone else see the return of Reimer, the return of Gardiner, recent changes to the coaching staff and the arrival of Kyle Dubas as suggesting Carlyle’s time in Toronto is running short?)

What are your thoughts on the deal? Let us know in the comments section below.

(Editor’s Note: The FanSided Network went down at the time this story was originally published so we apologize for any difficulties you may experience when trying to access it.)

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