Jake Gardiner has signed a $20.25M, five-year extension with the #leafs. Gives him a $4.05M AAV.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 29, 2014
The 24-year-old defenseman is coming off a career year with 10 goals and 31 points for the Maple Leafs. Gardiner averaged more than 21 minutes per game and saw significant time on Toronto's power play, where he collected 11 of his 31 points.
Though Gardiner's career with the Maple Leafs has been a tad rocky over the last few seasons, he has shown considerable promise in helping the Leafs backend. He posted a relative Corsi for percentage of 5.7 percent, showing that his possession numbers greatly outpaced the team's, which wasn't saying much last season.
The Leafs are paying a lot based on three seasons for the slick-skating puck-mover, but over the life of this contract, it very well could look like a steal as Gardiner continues to round out his game and grow into a better two-way defenseman. He has all of the offensive tools and his defensive game has improved as well.
The new deal makes Gardiner the Leafs' second highest paid defenseman.
There was a time where this didn't look likely to happen considering Gardiner's extended stays with the Maple Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate. It even once prompted his agent to tweet "Free Jake Gardiner." When Randy Carlyle was signed to an extension this offseason, it seemed even less likely Gardiner would be back with the team next year as it appeared the coach didn't quite favor Gardiner as much. Carlyle has denied that claim, however.
A player like Gardiner, a defenseman with speed and puck skills, can really be an asset in today's NHL. Defenders who can drive the rush and assist in the transition game will help create more offensive opportunities. It seems like Gardiner has all the tools to continue playing that high-paced style and as he continues to gain experience, he can be even more effective and that's where he'll bring the most value to his team.
With the deal, the Maple Leafs are about $127,500 over the salary cap for next season according to CapGeek.com. They're currently heavy on forwards, though, and not all of them will be able to make the team, so the AHL will be in a few of those forwards' futures.
The three-year veteran has appeared in 167 games over his career with Toronto and has 65 points. Gardiner is a former first-round selection of the Anaheim Ducks.