Despite a rough showing in the postseason while playing at less than 100%, Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner remains one of the top potential free agent defensemen available. (He ranked 12th overall in our midseason power rankings, third among blueliners.) With that in mind, TSN’s Darren Dreger suggests (Twitter link) that Gardiner is expected to command at least $6MM per season on the open market which would represent at least a $2MM raise on what he has made over the past five years. The 28-year-old saw his offensive numbers dip from 52 points down to 30 this season but can still hold down a top-four spot. While Toronto would certainly like to bring him back, that scenario appears to be highly unlikely given the big contracts they have on the books already plus winger Mitch Marner needing a new deal as well.
Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference:
- It has been an interesting few days for Sabres prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. On the plus side, he was named Goaltender of the Year in the OHL, a nice way to finish off his time at the junior level. On the negative side, it will be a while before he does any hockey-related activities as he’s expected to miss roughly the next six months after undergoing hip surgery earlier in the week, notes Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald. Luukkonen was a second-round pick of Buffalo back in 2017 and posted a .920 SV% in 50 games with Sudbury before getting into a game with AHL Rochester before their elimination earlier this month.
- Penguins prospect Filip Hallander is expected to be loaned to Lulea of the SHL for the 2019-20 season according to a report from Hans Abrahamsson and Tomas Ros of Aftonbladet. The forward spent this past season with Timra where he recorded a respectable 21 points (7-14-21) in 45 games while also suiting up for Sweden at the World Juniors. Pittsburgh already has Hallander, their second-round pick last June, under contract but the deal contains a European Assignment Clause.