Usually, within the first few days of free agency, the majority of the top players are off the market. It’s rare that one of the top players at a particular position is still available but that’s the case when it comes to defenseman Jake Gardiner.
The 29-year-old was slotted sixth in our Top 50 UFA Rankings with a projection to have the highest AAV of any blueliner to actually make it to the open market. That could certainly still happen but so far, there haven’t been many teams linked to him.
There are likely a couple of reasons for that. For starters, the back injury that caused him to miss some time is something that teams will be leery about when considering whether or not to commit a long-term deal to him. On top of that, he’s also coming off a quieter year offensively as he scored just three goals in 62 games while his 0.48 point per game average was his lowest in three years.
Nonetheless, he remains the only defenseman still out there that is basically a lock to play in a top-four role next season. There are quite a few teams that still have a vacancy to fill in that slot as well but at this point, it’s reasonable to infer that his market isn’t quite as bullish as it was thought to be just a few days ago. It has been suggested previously that he’d like to return to Toronto but given their movement so far this offseason and what’s still to come, that doesn’t appear to be a likely outcome even if his asking price comes down.
There are now two important questions when it comes to Gardiner. How much has his stock dropped and where will he wind up signing? Have your say on the latter of the two by choosing where you think he will sign by voting in the poll below.
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