The NHL’s free agency period is officially past the three week mark and one of the biggest names on the free agent market, former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner, remains without a contract.
Despite the demand for puck-moving, offensive defensemen around the NHL, Gardiner is still somehow available. But, maybe not for long if things play out the way Chris Ryan of the New Jersey Advance sees it.
In his latest column for NJ.com, Ryan makes the point for the New Jersey Devils to take a run at Gardiner in free agency.
Check it out:
But the left side still features the same three mainstays from last season — Andy Greene, Will Butcher and Mirco Mueller. And even if Smith stays in the NHL as a rookie, he wouldn’t jump into big minutes immediately. Signing free agent Jake Gardiner could add some needed talent to that group.
Gardiner had 30 points in 62 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, and while he took a lot of heat for his defensive play, he’s still a solid player on both sides of the ice. He’s a smart, puck-moving defenseman familiar with playing tough matchups. Putting him alongside Subban would give the Devils a formidable top pairing, and the team would then have a lot of talent and depth to fill out the final two pairings.
A deal for Gardiner won’t come cheap since he was the top defenseman on the free-agent market. But the fact that he hasn’t signed yet, unlike most free agents on July 1, means his value and term might come down. If it’s a reasonable AAV and, more importantly, term, he’s an option worth pursuing.
Um… excuse me? Gardiner and P.K. Subban as a pairing?!?! You’ll have to hire an army of statisticians just to keep track of their turnovers.
Don’t get me wrong, both players are great offensive defensemen… but I don’t think you’ll find a coach in the entire NHL who thinks putting them together is a good idea.