The hockey world was caught off guard yesterday when the Bobfather came out of hiding to announce that the Nashville Predators had signed Ryan Ellis to an 8 year, $6.25 million contract extension, which will kick in at the start of the 2019-20 season.
Great news for NSH, not so great news for any of the other 30 teams that were planning on UFA shopping in 2019: Defenceman Ryan Ellis has agreed to an eight-year extension with the Preds. AAV of $6.25M. Extension kicks in for the 19-20 season.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) August 14, 2018
So, because it’s the middle of August, we’re starved for content, and it’s our natural instinct as Leafs fans and media, there’s only one question to emerge from this extension.
How does this affect the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Or, more specifically, Jake Gardiner. It’s been basically all Leafs Twitter has talked about this summer (second to “When will William Nylander get signed?”). Will they re-sign him? Will they trade him? Will they let him walk at the end of the season? No one knows!
In fact, no one even knows what kind of contract Gardiner could get. He’s one of the better defensemen in the league, so he could certainly ask for something in the $6.5-7 million range, but he also has a perceived value of being “bad defensively”, so that could drop his price tag somewhere as low as even $5 million.
But, this Ryan Ellis contract extension gives us a good ballpark as to where he will probably get paid. Now, Ellis is a much better defenseman, don’t get me wrong, but there’s two reasons why Ellis’ price tag is as low as it is, because this is a player who could easily get $7-8 million on the open market.
1) Tennessee is a tax free state.
2) Nashville is a “good situation” for him.
Now, the tax situation is not applicable to Gardiner, unless he signs to a team like Nashville or Tampa Bay in free agency next summer. But, it does make Ellis’ contract a bit more comparable to Gardiner’s potential one. The lack of taxes means Ellis will get a bigger chunk of his contract, while if Gardiner were to sign a similar deal, he’d get less money playing for the Leafs. I’m not really that knowledgeable with taxes, so I’m not gonna do the math involved with this, but basically, it creates a situation where it makes more sense for Ellis and Gardiner to have the same cap hit, because Ellis still makes more money.
But, the good situation in Nashville is a bit more applicable with Gardiner. Aside from no taxes, Ellis probably (I’m not gonna say this is a hard truth) took a discount because he’s comfortable in Nashville, having played there for six full seasons (as well as a season in 2011-12 split between Nashville and Milwaukee), as well as the fact that the Predators are really good. I mean, he’d be the best right handed defenseman on a lot of teams, and he’s not even the best one on his own team.
Well, this might be a similar situation for Gardiner. Although he was drafted by Anaheim, Gardiner has also spent six full seasons (and a partial season in 2012-13, not because of the lockout, but because Randy Carlyle is an idiot), and well, the Leafs are also really good. Maybe not defensively like the Predators, but imagine not wanting to play with Auston Matthews and John Tavares and William Nylander and Mitch Marner and…
You get my point. I’m not saying that there’s no reason that Gardiner shouldn’t take a discount to come back to this team, but there are a couple. Although I wouldn’t blame him for leaving considering how some of the fans treat him (and before you say “He deserved it”, look at his Instagram comments this summer, he does not deserve that trash).
But, these reasons give us a good idea that if Gardiner were to re-sign, it would probably be in the $6 million range. It’d be hard for him to argue $6.5 million or more with the Ellis deal, which is good news for the Leafs, but it’d be hard to get him much lower than $6 million, but then term becomes an issue. Do you go 5-6 years? Longer? Shorter?
What do you think Gardiner’s next contract look like, with the Leafs or another team?