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Gettin’ paid: Gardiner inks five-year, $20.25M extension with Leafs

Jul 29, 2014, 6:04 PM EDT

gettygardiner Getty Images

Toronto has capped off a flurry of recent deals with a big one.

On Tuesday, the Leafs signed RFA defenseman Jake Gardiner to a five-year, $20.25 million deal, according to Sportsnet. The deal comes after an impressive campaign in which Gardiner posted career highs in goals (10) and points (31), all while averaging over 21 minutes per night in his third season as a Maple Leaf.

The deal also represents a big financial reward for the 24-year-old.

Gardiner gets a significant pay bump and will earn $4.05M annually with his new contract, making him Toronto’s second highest-paid blueliner — behind captain Dion Phaneuf, who makes $7M per year — and one of just two Maple Leaf rearguards to be signed past 2018 (Phaneuf’s the other).

It’s also a pretty dramatic turn of events considering that, roughly 16 months ago, the #FreeJakeGardiner hashtag/meme was a thing. Remember? Gardiner was stuck with the AHL Marlies — he’d end up playing just 12 regular season games for the Leafs that year — when his agent decided to take his beef to Twitter, leading to Randy Carlyle offering the Randy Carlyl-est of responses:

“When we feel it’s time for Jake Gardiner to come back we’re going to make that decision, and we’re not going to be influenced by anybody other than the people that are doing the assessing.”

Gardiner proved his doubters wrong that postseason, though, scoring five points in six playoff games in Toronto’s opening-round loss to Boston. He’s been a regular fixture in the lineup ever since, and now looks to be one of the cornerstones for the future.

Though there is this wrinkle to consider…

As mentioned above, the deal caps off what’s been a busy period in Toronto. The Leafs have come to terms with a pair of their own free agents — Cody Franson and James Reimer — and inked veteran forwards David Booth and Daniel Winnik to one-year pacts.

  1. sjrulz17 - Jul 29, 2014 at 6:19 PM

    What a ridiculous raise. I understand this kid is gonna be really good in a few years but I feel like he should have been signed for less then Franson.

  2. shaundre93 - Jul 29, 2014 at 6:26 PM

    I love to hate on the leafs as much as the next guy, but that seems like a great contract. If Gardiner puts up 40 pts and doesn’t suck on D that’s a total steal. I mean, come on, Brooks Orpik at 5.5 or Jake Gardiner at 4? That’s a no brainer

    • imleftcoast - Jul 29, 2014 at 7:56 PM

      It’s a stupid deal because it’s the Leafs. But Brooks Orpik at $5.5 for 5 years at 33 with declining skating skill and bad hands is worse than Jake Gardiner at $4m for 5 years at 24 and putting up decent numbers and ice time.

    • c9castine - Jul 29, 2014 at 11:15 PM

      lol….whats jake gardiner ever done?

      scored 31 pts eh?

      yeah, give that man 20 mil.

  3. 950003cups - Jul 29, 2014 at 6:27 PM

    It’s actually a good deal for Toronto. This kid has big talent. They screwed his progression up. Similar to the way the Devils screwed up Adam Larsson’s development

  4. strictlythedanks - Jul 29, 2014 at 7:02 PM

    Played against him in high school, real talented player. This contract seems a little steep to me but we shall see.

    • wutangwild - Jul 29, 2014 at 10:41 PM

      Good ol’ Tonka boy

  5. tross16 - Jul 29, 2014 at 7:07 PM

    I agree 100% this is a great deal and I also agree with the screwed up progression example with larsson I just hope he can turn it around like jake did

  6. adamal17 - Jul 29, 2014 at 7:09 PM

    This deal doesn’t mean good things for the Wings organization in terms of Danny DeKeyser. Danny D is a much better overall player/teammate and is in the same boat as the former RFA. By this contracts term/$$ Danny D will end up getting around the same if not more. I was hoping Danny D would sign for about 3 years or so for about 3.25-3.75…but if his agent is any good he’ll get him more than Gardiner. Good for Gardiner though…with the Leafs luck though his last year was just a fluke.

  7. marauders127 - Jul 29, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    My God do marginal d get paid in this league.

  8. c9castine - Jul 29, 2014 at 11:25 PM

    marauders127 i am with you man. i think this is a pretty big contract for a young guy who hasnt done a thing but play on a poor defense team and score 31 pts on a good offensive one. im sure hes going to turn out to be a real good player but i personally wouldnt be willing to commit much more than about 12-13 million over 4 years.

    • c9castine - Jul 29, 2014 at 11:27 PM

      probably willing to do 3.5 but not for more than 3 years.

  9. rgledz - Jul 30, 2014 at 1:52 AM

    Wow…..a bit overpaid I’d say. Nick Leddy had 31 points last year and it was a down year for him. He’s a RFA next year…another Minnesota boy should be getting paid if this is the standard.

  10. jeffychan27 - Jul 30, 2014 at 2:52 AM

    I don’t like the Leafs very much but if you honestly think DeKeyser is better than Gardiner overall then that’s extremely biased. Ridiculous statement

  11. moarjam - Jul 30, 2014 at 9:32 AM

    And people wonder why the market is so messed up?

    Kid is a talent. No doubt about it. But he can’t make the team 2 years ago then has 1 OK year. Is this the new qualifications for a $20mil deal?

    Don’t forget Michael Del Zotto once had a 40pt season (10 pts higher than Jake). 1 year isn’t enough to warrant this. Even if it is a talented guy like Gardiner (or MDZ haha). Make them earn it.

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