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Monday Mailbag: Long Ass Rant About Jake Gardiner Edition

It’s the worst week of the year for sports. It’s that week when many people head down that dark path and ask themselves, “Should I give the CFL a try?” To them I can only say “ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOS.”

Anyway, here’s the mailbag.

I mean based on what we knew then, drafting Gauthier in the first round was also a terrible idea, based on what we know now he’s probably not worth drafting at all. At this point he’s a bottom six forward in the AHL and that’s not likely to improve, but he’s also a popular player and they just won a championship, so we’re stuck with him for two more years.

If I’m looking at what we know now and answering where I’d draft him, I’d probably say 6th or 7th round, depending on how much value you put on having a deep AHL team.

If I’m looking at what we knew then and when he should have been drafted, he was probably a third or fourth round guy.

My understanding was that Sandin was heading for Sweden, and I’m a-ok with that. If it is a matter of choosing whether I’d prefer Sandin in the AHL or OHL, I’d generally go with the AHL because its a much more structured system with access to better training facilities, and the organization is constantly monitoring progress. At the moment there is a bit of a logjam on the Marlies blueline that makes putting Sandin into the AHL not very appealing at all, so in this instance I’d prefer see Sandin in the OHL over AHL, especially given the Dubas/Soo connection being strong.

Anyways, Eliteprospects.com is showing Sandin with Rogle in the SHL and that’s the best outcome, so hooray!

Buffalo sadly, and we can debate whether Los Angeles did. That doesn’t take anything away from Sandin who was a very good pick.

I see where you’re going with this and I like it, but let’s look at this from a “who initiated the trade” perspective, and in that case I’m still not a whole lot clearer on who would have done this. Lamoriello had the opportunity to bring back a fan/teammate favourite and inflate their cap hit without paying a lot of salary. Dubas had the chance to dump a player who the Leafs had already stopped using. I figure Dubas probably initiated this, but it wasn’t a hard sell on Lou. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Lou sell Martin at a higher price somewhere down the line, because I’m not willing to completely write him off as a bad GM.

If it hits the moon’s junk it won’t be able to have baby moons anymore.

Every mailbag needs at least one trade Jake Gardiner question, and let’s do this, again.

Since there are many people with many different beliefs on Jake Gardiner ranging from:

Facebook: Jake Gardiner is ass, trade him for a bag of pucks

to

Twitter: Jake Gardiner is God, why would you give up an All-Star defenseman

I’ll take up residency in the middle ground and we’ll do some exploring here.

If the Leafs are going to keep Jake Gardiner, they need to get his contract figured out this summer. If they are going to bring him back, I’d argue that I wouldn’t want to exceed a $6M/yr cap hit on him, and in the event he’d cost more than that, you absolutely need him to go. The other piece around keeping Jake Gardiner is that there isn’t a whole lot of certainty on the Leafs blueline at the moment. There’s Morgan Rielly, Jake Gardiner, and then a whole lot of hope attached to Travis Dermott, and a whole lot of “Zaitsev will rebound” wishful thoughts. I like Carrick, Marincin, Borgman, Holl, and to some extent, Hainsey, but that’s a lot guys that I really only like on the bottom pairing. Getting rid of Gardiner without replacing him puts the Leafs in a really bad spot, and if they don’t think they can replace him, he lasts the entire season with the Leafs no matter what.

On the other hand, there’s absolutely a market for Jake Gardiner, either as a rental or as a player that a team feels they can negotiate a contract with. The problem with this is that the teams that probably want Jake Gardiner are going to potentially not have what the Leafs want in return and the Leafs are stuck with Gardiner as a 2018-19 rental or they will have to take the best available return they can get for Gardiner, be thrilled with that, and then use part of their asset surplus to immediately chase down a cheaper, right shooting defenseman in another deal. The biggest issue here is that it will be a musical chairs situation and the Leafs won’t be able to find what they need, and have a really bad defense, or they might not be able to find a high level or high profile player to bring in, and it will be interpreted as a downgrade and bad short term move.

So option one of keeping Gardiner means potentially having a JVR level asset leave for no return and option two is that the Leafs make their defence worse when they don’t have to, if we’re looking at the downsides. The upsides are that Gardiner re-signs with the Leafs on a reasonable deal or at least was a worthwhile enough rental that he helped push the Leafs beyond the first round of the playoffs and we’re all happy. The upside for trading him, is the Leafs didn’t miss out on acquiring assets in a free agency year, and even if the Leafs couldn’t immediately replace Gardiner, they will have pieces to be aggressive when the opportunity arises.

It’s probably pretty clear that I lean towards trading Gardiner. It’s an opportunity to go big, and that’s what the Leafs need to be doing at this point. No matter who the Leafs put on their blueline this year, their forward group and Andersen has guaranteed them at least the 3rd place finish in the Atlantic division and they will face Boston again. I wouldn’t mind seeing what the Leafs can do with the mystery box instead of Gardiner.

Longer term, Gardiner is a bit more expendable if you’re putting a lot of stock in Dermott, Liljegren, and Sandin. When you figure that group still has Rielly, and some of Carrick, Rosen, Borgman, and Lindgren are also going to show some promise, it’s not horribly terrifying to revisit the no-name bluelines of the early 90s Leafs. Of course I say all of this while still thinking that Jake Gardiner is very good, and its far from a bad outcome to stick it out with him.

Every summer it seems like the fans of all 31 teams go to great lengths to justify why their defense isn’t as bad as it looks on paper. I think next March I’m going to write a letter to summer Jon and tell him that a defense that allows a high number of shots on a fatigued goaltender isn’t ideal, and I honestly do what more shot suppressors in the lineup, no matter how excited I may be about the potential of Marlies callups. I assume it will fall on deaf ears, but the reality is that I do not share Dubas’ publicly stated vote of confidence in this group, although I suspect he doesn’t believe that statement too much either.

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  • Capt.jay

    If you trade Gardiner do it for a first rounder and other parts if you can get them. Use that first plus one of our young wingers not named Nylander or Marner for a younger RHD

    • Jroc

      I don’t think that trade is out there. Nobody is giving up a top 4 RD for Connor Brown and a first. If that was available I think it would have happened already. I think the ask is closer to Kadri and a 2nd like the Henrique trade, at which point I would rather hold and hope for internal development.

  • leafdreamer

    People are forgetting that we can add to Gardiner in s trade – Gardiner plus (first round pick and a scoring winger prospect) should net us a top shelf righty defenceman. Ideally, I would like to see Gards signed long-term on a home-discount deal and Rielly traded got top-pairing RHD to play with Gards.

  • Matmarwill

    I am of the trade gardiner camp cuz i dont think the buds can win with him. Dermott moves up to 2lhd and Sandin will eventually be atleast the 3lhd. If oshiganov pans out hainsey goes to 3lhd with carrick/holl as 3rhd.

    • leafdreamer

      I think Gards would look amazing next to a real top right D like Parayko or Ristoleinen or Mayers. Gards has had the misfortune of having to carry dead weight through most of his career. He is not the problem – he’s our only good defenceman who is defensively sound as well as elite skater and on offence. Hainsey is slow and old and has no offensive upside, Zaitsev is mediocre, Rielly is elite offensively but a disaster defensively, and Dermott is still a kid and a little in the small side getting run over and muscled off the puck, Carrick sucks, Holl is an AHL guy and Liljegren and Sandin are too young. Marincin is the only guy who may still be a real defenceman but he’s a long shot too. The bottom line is Gards is our only real defenceman and a few mistakes at the wrong time don’t change that. We either wait and pray for Lili and Sandin to grow up or we do something about or D – that something being anything other than giving up our only decent player who is Jake Gardiner. Get him a real partner and watch our D all of a sudden look good. The real tragedy is that, even if we were to get us a true top right D, we’d have to play him with Rielly because he needs to be sheltered and Gards is the one that does (and has always done) the sheltering.