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Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

According to Elliotte Friedman the Canes are shopping Jake Gardiner. Should the Leafs be interested?

I am 100% here for how angry that headline makes you all. It fuels me. I’m wrapping myself up in your anger and drinking warm cocoa thinking of the responses this will receive. Thank you for this.

Anyways, let’s loop back around to Elliotte Friedman stating on his 31 Thoughts podcast that the Canes are shopping Jake Gardiner. I will say this here and now, and underline in bold, so there’s no confusion about it… Friedman didn’t say the Leafs are looking at Gardiner, that speculation is my own. The fact that Gardiner is available and had some success in Toronto is what has me connecting the dots back to Toronto with him.

Now, I’m also going to take the time acknowledge some truths about Jake Gardiner…

  1. Many of you don’t like him because he does somethings in his own zone that offend your eyes. This is a valid concern. Jake Gardiner can be better defensively and his greatest strength comes from when the Leafs have the puck, which he helps them do more often. I understand that there are few things more bothersome than watching Jake Gardiner try to defend an odd man rush, but we do need to appreciate he also helps create more odd man rushes than he’s asked to defend. To close this off, Gardiner is good, but frustrating and it’s okay if you don’t particularly like him on the ice, his play is understandably polarizing.
  2. His back is an issue. You don’t have back surgery and go about a career at 100% of where you used to be. There will be games missed, declining abilities, etc. that go along with that.
  3. At $4.05M for 3 years beyond this one, there are real dollars attached to the risk associated with Gardiner. Luckily, no one knows what Jake Gardiner is better than the Leafs, except for maybe the Canes, and they can tackle that risk. I’m not sure I envision a world where salary is retained on Gardiner, and I can’t see any equally questionable contract on the Leafs they’d send the other way, so maybe we’re already at a standstill on how this deal could work, though Gardiner as the part of something bigger or the Canes paying the Leafs to take Gardiner’s contract hold some appeal for me.

Aren’t the Leafs already set on the left side of the blueline?

The answer here is yes, but with an asterisk. Sandin at this point is a third pairing guy next season. Dermott might be a second pairing option, by default, but could reasonably be on the third pairing as well or playing on the right side. Rielly and Muzzin will occupy the top two spots on the left side, unless Rielly reverts to playing on the right side as well. Depending how hung up the Leafs are on having a right handed shot on the right side, and it seems like that might be a real concern. Assuming the Leafs brought in Gardiner, they’d have to move Rielly and Dermott to the right side to fit everyone in comfortably, and you could be looking at a line up like this…

Muzzin-Rielly
Gardiner-Holl
Sandin-Dermott

That leaves Kivihalme, and *cough* Marincin as the left side depth, and leaves Liljegren out in the cold, and I’m not sure anyone wants that.

Bringing in Gardiner, would likely mean pursuing trade options for Dermott and/or Rielly, and unless the Gardiner deal is worth it, I can’t see the Leafs going that route, though I don’t think it would be wrong if they were taking calls on Dermott and Rielly at this point.

In the short term, Gardiner does cover off the absence of Rielly nicely, and that’s an immediate benefit as well. Despite the long term nature of his deal, perhaps he can be looked at as a short term fix that they consider trading over the summer as well.

What would the Leafs need to give up? Get in addition to?

Honestly, I hate this area of speculation, but I’d say the Leafs shouldn’t be giving up a lot. At most the Leafs should be setting the Canes up so they can complete another deal that they want, or pushing the trade bigger where the Leafs possibly attempt recoup the 1st round pick they gave up to Carolina in the summer. I probably need to bold and underline this again, so I’m not suggesting the Leafs trade Kapanen for him. Barrie on the other hand, for a 1st and Gardiner would be something that could warm my heart. The Leafs don’t have the chance to hit undo the Kadri trade, but at least they could hit undo on giving up their 1st and letting Gardiner walk.