Here is what Toronto Maple Leafs should do with Jake Gardiner

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on March 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 5: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Toronto Maple Leafs during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on March 5, 2018 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/Getty Images) /

Jake Gardiner is officially less than a year away from becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA).

A good portion of Leafs Nation may believe that July 1 next year will be better for the Toronto Maple Leafs than this year if Gardiner leaves.  Since the Leafs just signed Tavares, that should give you an indication of how some fans feel about this player. Gardiner has earned himself a lot of hate over his tenure with the Maple Leafs, none of it deserved.

Gardiner is one of the only defensively responsible 50 point defenseman in the NHL.  Among Leafs defenseman who played 40 games last year, Gardiner allowed the least amount of shot-attempts, shots, scoring chances and goals.  He was fourth in the NHL in 5v5 points for a defenseman.

He took a lot of heat for his game seven performance this spring, but it’s important to remember that while Gardiner was on the ice for that game, Andersen had a 66% save percentage in league where 90% is considered bad.

Why should the Toronto Maple Leafs keep Jake Gardiner

Now on to the little more ‘advanced’ stats. There are roughly 10-20 times the amount of shot attempts in a game than goals which give you a better idea of the game. Shot Attempts are not just shots. Shot Attempts also factor in missed shots and blocked shots. During the previous four seasons, Jake Gardiner has played 5665.97 minutes (according to Corsica). Of that time Gardiner and his teammates have created 5517 Shot Attempts For and had 5281 Shot Attempts Against. That means that over the past four seasons, Gardiner has been on the ice for 236 more Shot Attempts For, than Against.

These kind of stats prove that Jake Gardiner is a overall positive player. Yes, you can say you are entitled to your opinion, but if it’s not an informed opinion, it doesn’t have much value.  By any way we have to measure the effectiveness of a hockey player, Jake Gardiner is good defensively.

Some people might dismiss these stats, but all successful professional sports teams in modern times pay attention to them. The fact is that the new regime of the Toronto Maple Leafs is heavily influenced by stats. And even Mike Babcock uses Gardiner more than any other defenseman he has.

As far as I can see, the Toronto Maple Leafs should keep and extend Jake Gardiner (for the right price).


52 point defenseman who are defensively responsible don’t grow on trees, and Gardiner will be 29 next season.  Signing 29 year olds into their thirties with massive contracts almost never works out well, but for the right price you have to try and keep your elite players, regardless of age.

Given Gardiner’s age, and what we know about the risks of paying players into their thirties, trading him is an option.  But not a good one, since the Leafs (with Matthews and Marner cheap for one more year) are pretty much all-in next season.   If you’re trying to win a Cup, getting rid of your best defenseman is a pretty funny way to go about doing that.

The best move might just be to utilize what Gardiner brings for one more year, and then try to sign him for a cheaper-than-market-value deal.  Worst case scenario, he walks for nothing and the team gets some cap space after using him to make a run in the playoffs.   LIke JVR this past season, Gardiner could best be used as an ‘own rental’ if the cost to re-sign him is too much.

Re-signing Jake Gardiner is optimal, the team just has to be wary of overpaying a speed-based player as he enters his 30s.

Next: Why Gardiner Is Good at Defense

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