Former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner has signed with the Carolina Hurricanes and people have mixed feelings about the news.
There was a strong likelihood of Jake Gardiner not being with the Toronto Maple Leafs next season and now that it is a reality, people are starting to lose their minds a little bit.
The main reason why of course was because Gardiner didn’t get a pay increase from the Carolina Hurricanes, he signed for the exact same he was making with the Leafs averaging out to a $4.05 million cap hit over four years.
While most are losing their minds over the fact that the Leafs are paying Cody Ceci $4.5 million this season while Gardiner is making less to play with Carolina, you cannot compare either situation.
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For starters, the Leafs needed a right-handed shot defenceman which can’t be overstated because Gardiner was sparingly played on the right side. Ceci was arbitration-eligible and he wasn’t going to get less than $4.5 million.
Also, the Leafs needed to move Nikita Zaitsev‘s deal and taking back Ceci was the price. People are also running under the assumption that Ceci is going to be a trainwreck before he even hits the ice with the Leafs, we don’t know how he is going to perform.
Let’s also remember that Gardiner was supposed to command roughly $6-7 million a year on a new deal which the Leafs couldn’t afford and even what he is making now would be tough to fit with Mitch Marner still not signed.
Could the Leafs have moved Ceci and sign Gardiner? Sure, but who do you play on the right side? I doubt Mike Babcock would put Gardiner and Morgan Rielly together even though everyone has been calling for that for years.
There’s also something to be said about trying to move in another direction after two failed first-round exits. While it wasn’t Gardiner’s fault the Leafs lost to Boston, he didn’t exactly do enough to put them in a position to win.
People also tend to forget that Tyson Barrie will also take over Gardiner’s spot in the lineup and should help ease the burden of losing Gardiner and is also a right-handed shot. Carolina also has the defensive depth to mask Gardiner’s questionable defensive decisions and could use him on the powerplay.
Toronto also has high hopes for defensive prospects like Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin so at some point you have to rely on your development staff to have replacements ready to step in.
Gardiner definitely had some memorable moments in Toronto but was also the whipping boy which was deserved at times but also unnecessary at other times. The Leafs had other needs which made it tough to bring Gardiner back and unless you can make the salary cap go up another $4 million, there’s not much that can be done about it.
What are your thoughts on Gardiner leaving? Should the Leafs have tried to make room to keep him around or was it time to move on? Let us know in the comments below.