Leafs, Gardiner Agree on 5 Year deal

Has this offseason left you optimistic? Excited? Confused? A combination of all three! Well, we here at TheLeafsNation.com feel the same way. Surely, the Leafs are due for a decision that completely and totally messes this run up and makes every good move made seem insignificant.

Well, today isn’t the day for that. Jake Gardiner is back, and he’s here for five more years, at a cap hit of $4.05 million.

No, Seriously

After all of this talk of a potential “bridge deal”, the Leafs took their chances on the 24 year old defenceman. And honestly, can you blame them? Just 167 games into his career, Gardiner has taken massive strides in his game, especially when you consider he had playstyle-altering concussion in his second season. 

The basic stats show promise. In both of his full seasons, he’s put up 30 points, with 23 and 19 of them respectively coming at even strength. He’s done this without inflated shooting percentages (even on-ice). He’s shooting more frequently, he’s playing more games, and he’s never in penalty trouble.

The fancy stats, even more so. The Leafs have been better at controlling the play in every regular season and playoffs of his career. This comes without a spectacular amount of “luck”, and while facing decent competition. He starts more of his shifts in the offensive zone, but that’s to be expected given his playstyle.

Speaking of, if this team’s systems are going to be changing this year, his eyeball critics will probably go away pretty quickly. The biggest flaw in his game to many are his “mental lapses”, but you wonder how much of that is him actually making bad decisions, or the team’s flawed system working against him. The plan, from the sounds of it, is to carry the puck in more – something he excels at. There should be less of the wingers cherry picking at centre – their failure to receive the puck created a lot of Jake’s first pass turnovers and icings. When he would break away from the structure to try his own thing, players weren’t ready for it. A new approach could do wonders for him.

He may do wonders for others as well; if he doesn’t end up playing with Dion Phaneuf this season, his pairing will at the very least get some more minutes to alleviate the pressure. The tables are starting to turn, and Toronto is looking more like an opportunity to succeed than a black hole for Gardiner’s career. So naturally, locking him up for half a decade is the perfect choice by management.

As for the money? $4.05 million is probably already worth it, let alone as he hits his prime. With the cap getting progressively higher, that already low percentage will look lower.

Everything Is Awesome

It’s amazing isn’t it? A bit of debate about the Polak and Frattin trades aside, the Leafs appear to be batting close to a thousand this offseason. Heading into August, they’re $120,000 over the cap, but also have 22 skaters on the roster. Taking out the three weakest links (likely Orr, Smith, and one of Bodie or Frattin) should bring Toronto another $2,000,000 in relief, which allows them to carry both a 7th defenceman and a 13th forward and still have a bit of room to spare, if need be.

The knock that some people may have is that these moves prevent them from picking up the “project signing” type of player, but the Leafs are already ahead of the game there too. They’ve picked up guys like David Booth and Daniel Winnik long before anybody else had the chance. In a surprise plot twist, the team has gone from employing half a bottom six to having an abundance of talent in that regard, along with having six defencemen who are all capable of taking on minutes. Add on a return to the same goaltending duo as last year?

Barring the coaching staff devising the worst strategies known to man, things are looking up right now. It’s a good time to be excited. When was the last time you were able to say that about this team?

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  • CashGameND

    ummm. fan 590 reported 5 years 25m which…. isn’t as good of a contract. So….. what is his contract really?

    UPDATED: just read on sportsnet 20.25 so you got it right. somebody reading the updates on 590 screwed it up. Funny how that minute details completely changes how I feel about the deal…. GREAT DEAL!

  • LeafErikson

    Either it will be a decent deal for a 3 or 4 D man, or a great deal for a top pairing D in a year or so. Either way, little risk here. Good job again by management. Very productive off season so far from Nonis and co.

  • CMpuck

    Reminds me of Josi’s deal, absolute steal if he hits his ceiling, for all the whining about Phaneuf’s contract between Jake and Morgan we’re getting two top fours with huge upside at cost. It’s a wash.

    Nice to see Jake commit to the Leafs, fan favorite in the making

    Now can I stop seeing his name in trade rumors.

    • LeafErikson

      With the media we have, that’s a pipe dream. I heard 4 leaf trade rumours on my way to work this morning. If there’s any merit to them say goodbye to Dion, Reimer, Franson and Bozak (i’m not holding my breath).

      And Jeffler: “It’s a good time to be excited. When was the last time you were able to say that about this team?”

      For me it’s been every damn year.

      Tough to get the excitement back this time to be honest……

  • LeafErikson

    Gardiner has the raw talent to take it up a notch.

    If he does ( and I think he will) this will look like a very good deal.

    Good work by management: everybody signed, no holdouts, no distractions…and its not even August.

  • Objective

    The deal is not bad, far from it. But at the trade deadline there will be like what, 1-2 M$ in cap space? Not enough if the leafs wanna make a move. So the question is :

    With :

    – Two superstar forwards (JVR and Kessel), 2 2nd line center (Kessel and Kadri), a decent winger when healthy (Lupul) and a whole bunch of bottom 6 players (Clarkson, Santorelli, Winnik, Komarov, Holland, etc etc ETC)

    – A defensive core that is pretty much the same as last year, adding an even slower Phaneuf and a better Reilly (even though we all know the curse of the second year).

    – A goalie tandem that is good but we all know it’s never easy to handle two #1 goalies on a same team.

    Is it honestly a team that can pretend making the playoffs?

    We all have an answer before even asking the question.

      • I agree about your concerns about the D but I think there will have to be a tad less pressure on them this year with more competent forwards playing with them. My biggest gripe last year was the wide open area between the hashes and the blueline because the wingers were cheating up the sidewalls or playing behind the net.

        Phaneuf playing less minutes and playing with more competent D-men will help drastically. Maybe not this year or even next, but soon we might have 2 (2!!) Karlsson/Doughty-esque D-men on our hand with several other young guns on the way.

        Speaking of, there also has to be a spot or two open for Granberg (4th round), Finn (2nd round), or Percy (1st round) to make the team. Holzer (4th round) could maybe regain his ground and surprise (at least not playing on the top line would do him good). MacWilliam (7th round) also proved to be fairly competent with the Marlies. These players are all fighting to sit in the pressbox as the 7th man. And they are cheap which is better than sitting Liles/Komisarek/Gleason up there. I think that’s a good thing.

        • Benjamin

          I agree with everything you’ve said, I’d just like more than 6 proven NHL D on the roster. If we sign one solid depth D it’d do a lot to ease my worries. Right now if any of the top 6 gets hit with a long term injury we just have a bunch of Marlies that are hopefully ready.

    • Why so negative? The bottom six can finally play more than 4 minutes a game and actually contribute. The lack of depth was the main reason that our top players hit the wall and the team fell off a cliff at the end of the season. Kessel and JVR were gased after the Olympics and the overplaying of Bernier lead to a major injury.

      I read somewhere that Santorelli and Booth scored more points last year than our whole bottom six combined. I also read that our new bottom six combined drew something like 25 more penalties last year compared to some negative number for our old 6. Almost all are very competent possession players. We don’t need McClement the defensive specialist when all of our bottom six don’t take penalties as much and can actually survive in the defensive zone.

      What do teams like St. Louis, Boston, LA, and Chicago (might change soon…) have? Depth. What are top-heavy teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa, or Edmonton missing? Depth. Competent players playing big minutes and chipping in points allow the big guns to specialize in more prominent areas and not be dogged night after night playing 20+ minutes. An NHL season is a long one. Your stars won’t show up every night, but if your bottom six can chip in a bit and steal you 5-10 wins a season, that can be the difference between making the playoffs and drafting in the top 10.

      • Objective

        I’m not negative, just objective.

        The 2014-2014 Leafs might be a little better than last year, I’m ok with this point. But what if the goalies don’t have a stellar season? It’s almost a miracle this team was still in the playoff race last race with 10 games to play, we can all agree on that, and it’s all thanks to one man, Bernier, and sometimes Reimer.

        Look at the great teams in this league, look how they were built. They are all here because they drafted great players.

        LA? Toffoli, Quick, Kopitar, Brown, Doughty, Voynov…
        Blackhawks? Kane, Toews, Keith, Seabrook, Shaw, Saad, Hjalmarsson, Crawford…
        Bruins? Bergeron, Lucic, Kreijci, Marchand, Hamilton, Krug, and I’d say Rask because before coming to the Bruins, he didn’t even play one game as a Leaf.

        And who did the Leafs draft? Kadri, Reimer, Reilly and let’s say Bozak. That’s it, that is it !

        You don’t build a winning franchise by making some nice trades (thank you Burke) and fixing your team with late summer acquisitions.

        You wanna know how I see it? MLSE has once again been successful this summer than making you blind folks think they did their job, that this year is the year, that the future is bright… Because they know you’re all gonna pay the big $ to watch these guys and filling the owners pockets.

        Their job is done, see you in March for the annual complaining, willing to fire everybody while you guys don’t see the obvious truth : They want you to give them money, that’s all they care about, and it’s a lucrative business since you always fall into their trap every year.

        • LeafErikson

          See, that’s where you are wrong. I didn’t go down to the ACC to hear them announce the pickups or even watch the videos of the announcements. I went to sites like this (no, not TSN or SN) and READ all the possible articles I could find. I READ, I look at the stats, and try to find as many critical reviews as I can. Just like when I want to buy something or try a new restaurant, I immediately want to read the negative comments because I’m not a sheep and I want to know the worst case scenario.

          Barely anyone is critically bashing these moves. All I can say is do some reading yourself and stop wallowing in negativity.

        • @Objective

          The 2013-2014 leafs on paper shouldn’t have been as bad defensively as they were though. I honestly believe that under a different system that team would have been a legitimate bubble team. A slight improvement from a bubble team is a middle of the pack playoff team. Are the leafs going to be that this year? Anything’s possible but I’m not going to be putting money on it.

          I’m optimistic this year when I have not been in years before because Shanahan seems to be changing this team (I suspect it’s Shanahan not Nonis) for the better, actually doing things that make sense. The decisions the leafs have made over the past decade have really inhibited the team and we’re finally moving in the right direction.

          And with your comments about drafting, the players you listed were drafted in the following years:

          LA Kings:
          Toffoli – 2010
          Quick – 2005
          Kopitar – 2005
          Brown – 2003
          Doughty – 2008
          Voynov – 2008
          Pearson – 2012
          That’s a 7 year split (2005-2012)

          Chicago Blackhawks:
          Kane – 2007
          Toews – 2006
          Keith – 2002
          Seabrook – 2003
          Shaw – 2011
          Saad – 2011
          Hjalmarsson – 2005
          Crawford – 2003
          That’s a 9 year split (2002-2011)

          Boston Bruins:
          Bergeron – 2003
          Lucic – 2006
          Krejci – 2004
          Marchand – 2006
          Hamilton – 2011
          Krug – undrafted, his draft year was 2009
          Rask – 2005
          That’s an 8 year split (2003-2011)

          Toronto Maple Leafs:
          Kadri – 2009
          Reimer – 2006
          Reilly – 2012
          Bozak – undrafted, his draft year was 2008
          That’s a 6 year split (2006-2012)

          If you ignore Reimer that becomes a 4 year split. Yes the leafs don’t have that many drafted pieces, but will that be true when our current prospects become legitimate options? What about the players we pick next year? You’re drawing from a smaller pool for the leafs.

          PS. No leaf fan pays for their tickets, everyone gets them for free.

  • STAN

    It’s debatable whether Booth, Santorelli, Komorov, Frattin, Kontiola and Winnick are an improvement over Raymond, Bolland, Kulemin, McClement and D’Amigo.

    The key for me is Troy Bodie. When given the chance he looked great – fast, big and with some soft hands.

    A line of Bodie, Santorelli and Komorov would be fast, gritty, intimidating and defensively competent.

    Carlyle & Co. cannot have Colton Orr on the team. No matter what. It’s a giant black hole.

  • STAN

    A great move by Dubas here. Only a a few days on the job and he has improved the leaf third and fourth line, fixed up the leaf coaching, got rid of Loiselle and Poulin and signed up both Reimer and also Gardiner. If we had brought in Dubas earlier, then the leafs would have avoided the disastrous Polak and D’amigo trade.

    This guy can do no wrong. The leafs are making the playoffs now. And by the trade deadline I expect that Dubas will offload Nonis, Carlyle, Clarkson and Bozak.

  • STAN

    I agree with everything you wrote. And it comes right down to the end: does any of this excellent management truly matter as long as Randy Carlyle is there to completely screw it up?

  • STAN

    My cousin has been a Leafs fan for over two decades and swears that the Leafs only do things that provide hope in order set him up for even greater disappointment later.

    Judging by Toronto’s off-season moves this year, I suppose that means that the Leafs are due for a string of improbably bad juju worse than the Tortorella Canucks.

  • FlareKnight

    So far the moves look pretty good. This signing is a fresh change. Look at a guy with potential and get him signed. I don’t have a big issue with the bridge contract since it is a safer move for teams. But it can bite you eventually if the guy does pan out.

    Guess I like the idea of going with the approach where if things go well this contract will be great.

    Although in terms of the question left at the end…the Leafs are pretty good at selling optimism in the summer.

    I really hope this time it all pans out, but can’t quite silence that uneasy feeling. Have to see them succeed to believe they can at this point.

  • jasken

    nice read Jeff

    Bridge contract would have been nicer but riskier as if his numbers and his ability improves he asks for more money. Other then that I like this signing like majority of the signings so far this off season.

    Now what these acquisitions tell me that they are no longer going to tolerate stragglers who refuse to buy in to the system. It’s not going to matter who they are from Kessel down to Orr either they buy in or their gone. The weakest link are those who operate outside the system and I have no doubt refusal of performing the system results in departure regardless.