When Jake Gardiner declared himself healthy enough to resume his NHL career, eyebrows raised all around the league. The defenseman had only played in 26 games during the 2020-21 season and missed all of 2021-22 because of chronic injuries, including a back issue that went back several years. Many had assumed that his career was over after missing the full season, but things were progressing like he would return to the Carolina Hurricanes this season.
Unfortunately, Gardiner has experienced a setback according to head coach Rod Brind’Amour and is not in training camp. Team reporter Walt Ruff passes on the full comment from the head coach:
He had a setback and just is not healthy enough to do it. Unfortunately he has had a lot of surgeries and we know he’s been nicked up.
If this is it for the 32-year-old defenseman, it is a disappointing end to a career that was cut short right in his prime. During the 2017-18 season, the last time Gardiner played all 82 games, he racked up 52 points for the Toronto Maple Leafs, 16th among all NHL defensemen. He was a real difference-maker at even-strength, where he tied for sixth among defensemen with 37 points.
As back issues started to take their toll, he played just 62 games the following season. His first season in Carolina was relatively healthy but it was cut short by COVID, and then things deteriorated quickly. Gardiner’s contract with the Hurricanes is set to expire after this season.
If it’s the end, the 2008 first-round pick will finish with 645 regular season games and 277 points. The Hurricanes will be able to move his contract to long-term injured reserve if he is unable to play this season.