The Carolina Hurricanes have added another talented defenseman to their ever-expanding depth chart, signing Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract. The deal carries an average annual value of just $4.05MM, quite a bit less than what many expected Gardiner to command this summer. PuckPedia provides the full breakdown of the deal:
- 2019-20: $3.65MM salary
- 2020-21: $3.90MM salary
- 2021-22: $4.20MM salary
- 2022-23: $4.45MM salary
The deal also includes a seven-team no-trade clause in all four seasons. Carolina GM Don Waddell released a short statement on the signing:
Jake is a solid veteran blueliner with a proven history of contributing offensively, including on the power play. He’s had options this summer, but ultimately decided that Carolina is his best fit, and we’re thrilled to have him here.
At first blush, this is an incredibly team-friendly deal for the Hurricanes. Gardiner came into the offseason as our highest ranked defenseman in the Top 50 UFA list, but after a late-season back injury and implying that he wanted to return to the Toronto Maple Leafs his market never seemed to develop. The $4.05MM cap hit is exactly the same as he has made over the last five years with Toronto, and could result in a real value for the Hurricanes. Chris Johnston of Sportsnet notes that the four-year term may have been the biggest selling point, as there “weren’t many multi-year offers” for Gardiner this summer.
The hesitance to give Gardiner term may be because of the cap as Johnston suggests, or because of the injury, but there’s good reason to like this deal from a Carolina standpoint. The team now boasts probably the deepest group of defensemen in the league, with Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Gustav Forsling, Haydn Fleury, Jake Bean and now Gardiner all being capable NHL options. The team even signed Chase Priskie recently and also has Roland McKeown if injuries were to really pile up. That glut of defensemen will certainly lead to plenty of trade speculation, most notably around Faulk who has been involved in rumors for years.
Faulk and van Riemsdyk are both heading into their final years under contract before reaching unrestricted free agency, and could potentially be moved for an upgrade at forward now that Gardiner is in place to take on some minutes. Though they play opposite sides, Gardiner and Faulk have been compared for some time due to their playstyles as offensive puck-moving options. Both are known to turn the puck over at the most inopportune times, but can generally drive play at an excellent rate and run a powerplay. Gardiner has averaged at least 20 minutes of ice time in every season of his career to this point, and is just a year removed from a career-high 52-point season. The Minnesota native has amassed 245 points in 551 games, very similar to Faulk’s 258 in 559.
It’s not clear where exactly the Hurricanes will deploy the 29-year old Gardiner, but he comes in just ahead of Pesce in terms of salary and could very well take over for Calvin de Haan who was shipped out of town this offseason. de Haan logged more than 18 and a half minutes per game with the Hurricanes, a total that may allow Gardiner to be even more effective on a nightly basis.