Gardiner signs five-year deal with Toronto
The Maple Leafs have been busy re-signing players they believe to be integral parts of their future. They inked goaltender James Reimer to a two-year extension on Sunday, and yesterday they signed burgeoning defenseman Jake Gardiner to a five-year contract.
The deal has a total value of $20.25 million, an average annual value of $4.05 million. The 24-year-old Gardiner has become a solid offensive force from the blueline, registering 31 points (10 goals, 21 assists) in 80 games last year, second among all Maple Leafs defensemen.
This contract is quite similar to the deals inked in recent years by Victor Hedman of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Zach Bogosian of the Winnipeg Jets. Those two were highly regarded young defensemen who had not yet reached their full potential, but were handed long-term contracts in anticipation of them blossoming into cornerstone blueliners.
While Gardiner wasn’t a top-three draft choice like Hedman (No. 2, 2009) or Bogosian (No. 3, 2008)– Anaheim took him with the No. 17 pick in 2008 before dealing him to Toronto in 2011– expectations are still high for the Minnetonka, MN native. His contract is nearly identical to that of Hedman’s (five years, $20M), and Toronto is hoping he can take the same kind of leap forward- one year after signing his deal, Hedman posted 13 goals and 55 points, the latter of which was fourth among all NHL blueliners.