Jake Gardiner is moving on from Toronto to the coast.
The Carolina Hurricanes have signed Gardiner to a four-year deal that carries an AAV of $4.05 million, the team announced Friday.
With the signing, Carolina has increased its left-side depth while also adding offense to its blue line.
NHL FREE AGENCY 2019: Tracker for all 31 teams’ RFAs, UFAs
In 62 games with the Maple Leafs last season, the 29-year-old had 30 points (three goals, 27 assists) and a plus/minus rating of plus-19. Following his eight-year stint in Toronto, Gardiner said he had multiple offers on the table for one to two years but ultimately settled on Raleigh.
“It’s a team on the rise and a Cup contender for sure,” Gardiner said via a conference call. “My wife really liked the area and it just seemed like a really good fit. Like I said, really good team and that was really important to me. [Good] leadership too, with Rod Brind’Amour as coach. . . I thought this would be a really good opportunity and seemed like a good fit for me and my family.”
Gardiner is the type of player who can quarterback a power play and likes to get involved on the forecheck. He can also log a lot of minutes, as seen last season with Toronto. Behind Morgan Rielly, he had the second-most ice time among all skaters, averaging roughly 21 minutes a night, including 1:52 on the man advantage. The 6-2, 203-pound blueliner also has an ideal frame for the NHL level and isn’t afraid to battle for the puck.
Defensively, though, the 6-2, 203-pound blueliner does have room for improvement and often came under fire in Toronto for lapses in his own end. He needs to utilize his frame more, while also limiting his mistakes and taking better care of the puck. While he doesn’t shy away from blocking shots, he does need to get better at forcing turnovers and winning puck battles.
Gardiner fills the void left by Calvin de Haan, who will play in Chicago this season, by serving on the bottom-pairing and potentially competing for a top-four spot. He also adds to an already very-deep defensive corps, but can also log more time on the power play, which will benefit the Hurricanes greatly; they had just 17.8 percent success on the man advantage last season, ranking 20th overall, and it has been a constant problem over the last few seasons.
With Gardiner, Carolina also adds another offensive defenseman to its already-impressive arsenal — Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk and Jaccob Slavin all had at least 30 points in 2018-19.
“[The Hurricanes’ defense ] has got to be one of the best in the league already,” Gardiner said. “I can help a little bit, hopefully help the power play out if that’s where they see me. They have a really good right side, and like I said I’ll be able to help out on the left side a bit and help this team win.”
Overall, given the market, the Hurricanes won big with this signing. Gardiner wasn’t nearly as expensive as Tyler Myers, the other top UFA defenseman who signed with the Canucks for five years and $30 million, and he will ensure that Carolina has more depth and flexibility on defense. Not only that, but this also gives the chance for prospects like Haydn Fleury to continue developing their game in the AHL rather than being thrown into the NHL.
Source: Read Full Article