The Toronto Maple Leafs continued to lock up their young blueliners on Tuesday, when they announced that they had signed Jake Gardiner to a five-year contract. While the financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, it is reportedly worth $20.25 million, and will carry an annual cap hit of $4.05 million.
“This isn't a player who has reached his ceiling yet, said Leafs general manager Dave Nonis of Gardiner. “There's a lot more for Jake to give. He's already a very good player. We think there's a chance he could improve dramatically over the five-year period."
With 31 points in 80 games, the 24-year-old defenseman ranked second in scoring amongst the team’s blueliners, trailing only Cody Franson (33). He finished the 2013-2014 season on a tear, scoring 11 points in the final 14 games. A first round selection by the Anaheim Ducks in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, Gardiner was acquired by the Leafs in 2011 along with Joffrey Lupul and a conditional fourth round selection in 2013, in exchange for Francois Beauchemin. In 167 career NHL games (all with the Leafs), Gardiner has 17 goals and 65 points.
Gardiner’s deal comes on the heels of the July 21 signing of Franson, who agreed to a one-year deal to avoid arbitration. The 26-year-old Franson will make $3.3 million next season. The team will also have two new faces on the back end. At the NHL Entry Draft, they acquired Roman Polak from the St. Louis Blues. They also added veteran Stephane Robidas on the first day of free agency.
The team also added a pair of veteran forwards to their roster; signing David Booth last week, then adding Daniel Winnik on Monday. Finally, the team re-signed goaltender James Reimer to a two-year deal on Monday. Reimer’s deal came as a bit of a surprise, as it appeared that his time with the Leafs had reached its end.
"It felt like things were heading in a different direction," said Reimer. "Over the course of the summer, things kind of changed and obviously signing the two-year contract it has taken a 180-[degree turn] from there. I'm really excited about coming back. It's not a case where I wanted to leave. I just thought, like I said, that things were kind of done there. I'm really excited to have another opportunity and kind of a new start there."