NHL rumors: Leafs discussing Jake Gardiner with other teams

Gardiner is a restricted free agent after this season. (USATSI)
Jake Gardiner can become a restricted free agent after this season. (USATSI)

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Ever since Randy Carlyle took over as the coach of the Maple Leafs, things have not exactly sailed smoothy for defenseman Jake Gardiner. He was stuck for a good portion of last season in the AHL when his agent famously began the #FreeJakeGardiner movement before his eventual call up. Now there's talk he could be freed in a much bigger way.

In his weekly 30 Thoughts piece, Elliotte Friedman dropped these two nuggets which have sent the always sensible Toronto fan base into a tiny frenzy.

14. There is definitely some level of conversation going on between other teams and Toronto involving Jake Gardiner. I despise the word "shopped," as it's more like a feeling-out process. If the Maple Leafs do decide to do it, it's going to be for a young asset or assets. So, you have to look at teams with talented young players. This is PURELY my speculation, but if teams like Dallas, Florida or Minnesota would be interested, you could see a match.

15. The Gardiner talk surprised me, because he was so impressive against Boston in last year's playoffs. There are scouts who still have questions, but most agree that he has a valuable skill -- he can skate the puck out of trouble.

Friedman isn't one to get stuff wrong often so you can be sure there's something to this, though note he didn't report something was imminent or anything like that. It sounds more exploratory than anything else at this point. Though Leafs fans can hope he's wrong, way wrong.

Trying to understand the thinking of the Leafs on this one, he's a defenseman who doesn't quite fit the Carlyle tough-guy mold as Gardiner's a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman. He doesn't see a lot of time (relatively) so if the Leafs could move him for a young forward or such, they might have to consider it. They have a host of defensemen right now as it is -- though they haven't exactly been the shining spot so far this season. All put together, he's a nice trade chip if the Leafs elect to go that route, a lot teams would figure to be interested.

The panic in Toronto has since spread to Edmonton as well as it was suggested that the Leafs might be tempted to deal Gardiner for Nail Yakupov. However I think most in Edmonton are aware that's not going to happen. Gardiner still has a bright future but so does Yakupov, probably more so. At this point it's a crazy idea, not much more.

Instead, Friedman lists a trio of other teams that could be interested and all could use a player like Gardiner. The problem is, so could the Leafs if he can fi into the Carlyle puzzle again.

It was as a rookie under Ron Wilson that the 17th overall pick in the 2008 draft enjoyed his best season. He played 75 games scoring seven goals with 23 assists in 21:35 per game, tantilizing the Leafs fans with the bright future they heard so much about when he was traded to Toronto from Anaheim.

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