Free at last! Leafs recall Jake Gardiner, send down Holzer

By Brian Stubits | CBSSports.com

Gardiner appeared in two games for the Leafs earlier this season. (Getty Images)
Gardiner appeared in two games for the Leafs earlier this season. (Getty Images)

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Jake Gardiner's agent can relax; his client has been freed at last.

On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent defenseman Korbinian Holzer to AHL Toronto and recalled Gardiner, their top defensive prospect. He was with the team last season and garnered some attention for the Calder Trophy, but a concussion sent him to the AHL to rehab.

After he was fit to play, though, he remained with the Marlies instead of getting recalled by the big club. It was a mystery to many, most notably his agent, Ben Hankinson, who had this not-so-subtle tweet a week ago.

Your calls have been heard; Jake is free.

And how did Gardiner react? "He's pretty pumped," Hankinson told James Mirtle.

Of course. He has been playing in the AHL for the majority of the season thanks to the NHL lockout. In 43 games, he had 10 goals and 21 assists, leading even more people to wonder why he wasn't up with the Leafs.

Last season, he played 75 games with the big club, scoring seven goals and adding 23 assists in his rookie campaign. He was very good, giving the Leafs a glimpse at a future fixture on their blue line. Except he wasn't there this season for Randy Carlyle.

Instead, Holzer was playing with the big team in Toronto. In 22 games, he wasn't contributing much offensively with two goals and an assist -- not that he was counted on for offense -- but too often looked lost on the back line. Still, he was playing 18:30 per game, a lot more than the fine folks of Toronto wanted to see.

Now the two switch spots, and it couldn't come at a better time for the team. The Leafs have lost five in row and are getting dangerously close to that playoff cut line again. It's a safe bet that getting Gardiner back on the ice will only help them try to stem that tide.

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