Only one season after signing with the Carolina Hurricanes, Jake Gardiner could find himself on the move again. According to professional hockey sage Elliotte Friedman, the Canes have been actively shopping the Minnetonka, Minnesota native. Friedman writes simply, “Carolina continues to examine its trade options with Jake Gardiner.”
Hurricanes Blue Line Situation
Perhaps the biggest strength in Carolina has been the emergence of a solid defensive core that currently includes NHL veterans Dougie Hamilton, Jacob Slavin, Brett Pesce, and Brady Skjei. When you add Gardiner into the mix, the Canes will be paying out over $24 million to those five players when the 20/21 season begins.
Additionally, the Canes also have some good young back end prospects that include former WHL stars Haydn Fleury and Jake Bean. Fleury is now an RFA and Carolina will likely want to lock him down for at least another couple of years.
With a good mix of defensive depth, Carolina is in a position to re-balance the blue line corps with some added offence up front. Additionally, the Hurricanes will also need to sign a starting goaltender in the near future, as both James Reimer and Petr Mrázek will become UFA’s in 21/22.
Considering all of these factors, it should really come as no surprise that Gardiner’s name is being tossed around. Even retrospectively – the writing may have been on the wall when the Hurricanes acquired Brady Skjei from the New York Rangers during the 2020 trade deadline.
Can Gardiner Get Back on Track?
Gardiner, a former 17th overall selection, created a market for himself during his time in Toronto with the Maple Leafs. An offensive defenseman, Gardiner hit the 50-point mark during the 17/18 season five goals and 47 assists (52) in 82 games. However, the following season in Toronto was a struggle and Gardiner’s time in Ontario had run its course. That was confirmed in September of 2019 when the Canes and Gardiner agreed to a four-year deal worth $16.2 million. He now has three years remaining on his contract with an AAV of $4.05 million.
What was hoped to be a positive change of scenery has not equaled short term success in Carolina thus far. Gardiner only managed four goals, 24 assists in 68 games (he was also -24) in 2019/20. Never known for his defensive play, the big question for any team interested in Gardiner will be: can he still get his offensive game back on track in another new environment?
Of course, the caveat to any Gardiner trade talk is his no-movement clause. Is Carolina shopping other defensemen or just Gardiner? Could we be hearing only Gardiner’s name because the Hurricanes needed his approval? Time always tells, but watch for any news out of Carolina in the coming days.
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