It’s been a little over a year now since the Carolina Hurricanes signed Jake Gardiner to a four-year, $16.2MM contract. It seemed the ink had only barely dried by the time speculation started swirling about his tenure in Carolina, with the team potentially looking to move on just a few months into the deal. At the trade deadline, the Hurricanes added Brady Skjei and Sami Vatanen, with the former signed through 2023-24.
Now in free agency, though Vatanen remains unsigned and the team moved on from Joel Edmundson, there is still a log jam of defenders in Carolina. Joakim Ryan has been brought in as an inexpensive depth option, while Jake Bean continues to wait patiently for his NHL opportunity. Gardiner meanwhile is in the news again, with Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet writing Carolina “continue to examine its trade options” for the veteran defenseman.
Gardiner, 30, was an incredibly polarizing player during his years with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both one of their consistent options on the blue line and the author of the most ill-timed giveaways, he had fervent supporters and detractors over a 551-game tenure. In 2019-20 with the Hurricanes, the same frustrations were evident. Gardiner did record 24 points in 68 games, but was also limited to fewer than 17 minutes a night and was a team-leading -24 (the next closest player was Trevor van Riemsdyk’s -7 rating).
Unfortunately perhaps for the Hurricanes, Gardiner does hold a seven-team no-trade clause and is under a contract that is actually back-loaded. Though his cap hit may only be $4.05MM per season, the actual money owed reaches $12.55MM. That’s not a huge difference, but still could be one that makes a trade harder in the current financial landscape.
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