Jake Gardiner came into the offseason as our top unrestricted free agent defenseman and sixth-highest ranked player overall. We predicted a five-year contract worth $32MM for the talented puck-mover, but as the calendar gets ready to turn to September he remains unsigned. There’s been very little indication from Gardiner or his representatives to why that is, but many have speculated that he may be waiting for an opportunity to present itself in Toronto where he could return to the Maple Leafs. With Mitch Marner still unsigned and the Maple Leafs right up against the cap that seems unlikely, so Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet gave his thoughts on the situation:
Jake Gardiner loves Toronto, and I know the organization really likes him. They like him a lot. The thing that I wonder about for Gardiner is, if he is looking to increase his value is he going to do it in Toronto? He’s not going to get as much powerplay time, they’re going to have [Morgan] Rielly and [Tyson] Barrie. He’s probably going to be a third-pairing defenseman. If he’s staying in Toronto, it’s because he really wants to be there.
I’ve heard Arizona. I’ve heard both Montreal and Winnipeg. I’ve heard Buffalo if they move maybe [Rasmus] Ristolainen out. Somebody said they heard rumors of potentially Carolina depending on what the Hurricanes might still do. I think there is interest in him, I think he’s being picky.
Despite the fact that Gardiner has been known to turn the puck over at the most inopportune times for Toronto, he is still a quality player that many teams around the league could use. The 29-year old has averaged more than 20 minutes a night in every single year of his career and just posted his sixth 30+ point season. His possession numbers are excellent even when compared to his talented teammates, and he’s shown the ability to contribute even more offensively when given the chance. No, Gardiner certainly isn’t a perfect player, but it’s extremely surprising to see him last this long into the offseason without a contact.
- The Washington Capitals have hired Scott Allen as an assistant coach for their AHL affiliate, adding some more experience to the Hershey Bears bench. Allen has serves as an NHL assistant for the last three years, most recently with the Arizona Coyotes. The former minor league forward actually started his coaching career with the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL more than two decades ago.
- The Philadelphia Flyers may have an franchise-changing netminder on their hands in Carter Hart, but the team isn’t going to just hand him the starting job this season. As Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes, Hart will have to compete with Brian Elliott for that job in training camp and earn his spot at the top of the depth chart. While it seems unlikely that Elliott could really take the full-time starter role, it does suggest that perhaps he won’t be left completely out in the cold. If a healthy Elliott can regain any of the form that he had in St. Louis a few years ago the Flyers could have one of the best tandems in the league on their hands. The 21-year old Hart already showed how capable he was at this level with a .917 save percentage in 31 games as a rookie.