Jake Gardiner could end up being the steal of the summer.

Gardiner still available.

Jake Gardiner could end up being the steal of the summer.

There is a ton of mystery surrounding former Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner and what the future may have in store for him. It is especially surprising when you consider the fact that there are other defensemen out there like Tyler Myers who have earned themselves long term deals and for good money no less. To be fair here Myers is a right handed defenseman and for that reason there was likely more demand for him on the market than Gardiner, but the former Maple Leaf is no slouch either. 

Throughout his time in Toronto Gardiner has been a very resilient player but his health issues this season may be playing a role in the kind of contract offers he has been receiving from around the National Hockey Leagye. Gardiner missed 20 games this season due to a back injury, and back injuries are always very scary given how quickly they can sideline a players career. Additionally it was obvious during the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Boston Bruins that Gardiner was still struggling as a result of the injury, and that would only further serve to scare teams away from signing him as an unrestricted free agent. 

In spite of that Gardiner has been a very solid asset on the blue line for the Maple Leafs with good possession numbers and consistent offensive production from the blue line. It is true that many fans tend to remember the gaffes that Gardiner has had as a Maple Leaf but when you take a broader look at his overall performance those mistakes, although glaring at times, are really few and far between. Still though you can see why teams would potentially be reluctant to commit to him on a long term deal at the age of 29.

There have been rumblings around the National Hockey League that Gardiner is holding out hope that the Toronto Maple Leafs will be able to squeeze him onto their roster after they hand out what is expected to be a giant contract extension for star forward Mitch Marner, but there are good reasons to be skeptical about that being realistic. Even if Marner does end up taking something of a hometown discount, which all signs would indicate he is not willing to do, it would require Gardiner himself to sign for much less than he would be worth on the open market to make it happen. 

This far into the process most teams have already spent their big money on key signings or trades, and regardless of where he ends up Gardiner may end up being one of the steals of the summer when he does finally sign.