Former Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner will not be returning to Toronto

Sep 6 2019, 2:52 pm

One of the biggest remaining names in the NHL’s 2019 Free Agency has found a new home.

The Carolina Hurricanes have signed former Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Jake Gardiner. The unrestricted free agent will join the Hurricanes on a four year, $16.2 million contract that has an average annual value (AAV) of $4.05 million.

Gardiner’s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs was uncertain, to say the least. Despite being a very strong left-handed defenceman, he’s known for the occasional gaffe. To put it bluntly, it seems like he makes the worst mistakes at the worst times.

The Leafs also recently received former Avalanche defenceman Tyson Barrie and they have a healthy selection of defensive prospects such as Rasmus Sandin, Timothy Liljegren, Calle Rosen, and Andreas Borgman.

Couple that with limited cap space and Gardiner’s exit seems all but imminent.

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He’ll have plenty to look forward to when he joins Carolina, however, including an impressive blue line that consists of names like Justin Falk, Dougie Hamilton, and Jacob Slavin, among others.

In fact, Gardiner says it was one of the main reasons he chose to sign with the Hurricanes.

“It’s got to be one of the best in the league already,” he tells NHL.com. “I think I can help a little bit and hopefully help the power play out if that’s where they see me. They have a really good right side and I think I’ll be able to help out the left side.”

It’s unknown as to which other teams offered Gardiner a contract, let alone the Toronto Maple Leafs, but Don Waddell, president and GM of the Hurricanes hints that he might have had a few options.

“He’s had his options this summer but ultimately decided that Carolina is his best fit,” he says in a statement. “We’re thrilled to have him here.”

The 29-year-old was drafted in the first round of the 2008 NHL Draft by the Anaheim Ducks. He was traded to the Leafs alongside Joffrey Lupul and a draft pick in exchange for Francois Beauchemin.

The Minnesota native made his NHL debut during the 2011-12 season after three years at the University of Wisconsin. He played a total of 551 games for the Maple Leafs, scoring 45 goals and 245 points in the process (45-200-245).