The Carolina Hurricanes shocked the hockey world on Saturday morning when news broke that veteran defenceman Jake Gardiner had been placed on Waivers by the club for the 11:00 AM daily wire.
Gardiner, 30, is the elder statesman on an exceptionally deep Hurricanes’ blueline, that very well may be the deepest in the league. But with high level of play, comes a high paycheque, and Carolina’s defence is also one of the highest-paid corps in the league, coming in at $25.7 million between the club’s top-six consisting of Jaccob Slavin, Dougie Hamilton, Brett Pesce, Brady Skjei, Haydn Fleury and Gardiner.
Fellow defenders Jake Bean and Joakim Ryan are currently on the Canes’ taxi squad, to which one of which will certainly begin drawing into the lineup on the regular, should Gardiner be given a new home, by way of a successful Waiver claim.
With Hamilton (the highest-earning defender) being the only blueliner on an expiring contract after season-end, Carolina will most certainly be dishing out some big cash to the now 27-year-old currently earning $5.75 million per year.
Gardiner came into the 2020-21 season in the second year of a four-season, $16.2 million contract featuring a $4.05 million annual average value signed back on September 6, 2019. Gardiner, who wished to remain with Carolina actually owns a modified no-movement clause as a part of his contract.
In his second season with the Hurricanes, the left-handed shooting defenceman has seven assists and just one minor penalty taken in 17 games played. He also owns a +2 rating on the year.
Breaking into the league in 2011-12 as a 21-year-old with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gardiner became a highly-offensive cog on the blueline and a reliable option on the team’s power play over the next eight seasons. He put up a career-high 10 goals in 2013-14 and registered a career-high 47 assists in 2017-18, to which he also set a new mark with 52 points in 82 games.
His defensive play during one Leafs’ postseason game against Boston fell highly under the microscope, but the seasoned defender certainly turned things around in Carolina over his 85 games in red, black and white.
With Winnipeg in need of some defensive help, the rumour mill has been swirling following the team’s performance through two games of a three-game set against the division-leading Maple Leafs, to which the Jets have most certainly held their own.
Names such as David Savard, Mattias Ekholm and Vince Dunn have circulated through the many avenues pertaining to additional help on the Jets’ blueline. However, the price tag on the three of the aforementioned blueliners most certainly includes Winnipeg’s upcoming first-round draft pick (2021) and a blue-chip prospect or two.
With the Jets having dealt away numerous first-round picks over the past number of years, the thought of giving up another top-level first-rounder in hopes that the return on a defenceman helps the team to Stanley Cup glory is definitely a shot in the dark.
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Having moving back-to-back first-rounders in exchange for second-line centermen (Paul Stastny, Kevin Hayes) in deadline day deals, the Jets will once again be looking for help this spring, but more so on the back-end.
Currently boasting a corps of Josh Morrissey, Neal Pionk, Derek Forbort, Tucker Poolman, Nathan Beaulieu, and Dylan DeMelo and with Sami Niku, Logan Stanley, and Ville Heinola waiting in the wings, the blueline has seen brighter days.
The addition of a veteran player of Jake Gardiner’s worth and playoff experience most certainly indicates a positive step in the right direction. Known for often playing his ‘off-side’, Gardiner’s handedness shouldn’t be an issue for GM Kevin Cheveldayoff in playing a Waiver bid, nor should it be a hindrance to head coach Paul Maurice, who has had some experience facing off against the Minnesota product.
Of course, in operating near the current NHL salary cap of $81.5 million this season, Cheveldayoff and Co. would definitely need to do some tinkering to make room, but this idea is not that far off.
If acquiring a proven veteran defender is a priority for Winnipeg, the opportunity to do so without giving up a talented prospect or two and a first-round selection should wet Chevy’s whistle.
Is the time right? Most certainly. Is there risk involved? Sure. Will there be better names to trade for later down the line? Yes. Will those names come with lasting draft/development impacts? Most definitely.
Only times will tell. Check back at 11:00 AM on Sunday.