Cap comparables: Is Gardiner contract a steal for Hurricanes?

Defenceman Jake Gardiner joined Good Show to talk about signing a four-year deal with the Carolina Hurricanes and his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

If his back holds up, the four-year contract free agent Jake Gardiner signed with the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday could end up making general manager Don Waddell look like a genius.

Back in late June and early July, many prognosticators estimated Gardiner’s average annual value could end up being somewhere as high as in the $6-7 million range, however the Hurricanes locked him up at $4.05-million annually, which is identical to the price tag he carried the previous five years with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“Jake is a solid veteran blueliner with a proven history of contributing offensively, including on the power play,” Waddell said in a press release. “He’s had options this summer, but ultimately decided that Carolina is his best fit, and we’re thrilled to have him here.”

The 29-year-old is coming off a down year during which he registered 30 points in 62 games with lingering back issues preventing him from playing a full season.

Gardiner also frequently served as the whipping boy for Maple Leafs fans – especially in late April – for disappointing in Game 7 showdowns against the Boston Bruins two years in a row.

He went a combined minus-8 and had several egregious turnovers and misplays in those elimination games, leading him to say this following what turned out to be his final game in a Maple Leafs uniform: “It’s going to be a tough one to swallow, that’s for sure. I let a lot of people down. But you know what, hopefully I can come back better from it.”

If he does return to the ice an improved player, it’ll be Waddell and the Hurricanes who benefit.

The Hurricanes made a surprise trip to the Eastern Conference final in the spring and the addition of Gardiner, on paper at least, strengthens an already-promising roster.

The Minnetonka, Minn., native is the latest addition to a Hurricanes defence corps that already boasts Dougie Hamilton, Jaccob Slavin, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce and Trevor van Riemsdyk — although Gardiner’s deal could impact Faulk’s future, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Over the past three seasons, Gardiner’s 0.55 points per game puts him in the same production range as the likes of Ryan Ellis, Shea Weber, Rasmus Ristolainen, Matt Dumba, Jacob Trouba, Jared Spurgeon and new teammate Hamilton – all of whom have 2019-20 salary cap hits at least $1 million more expensive than Gardiner’s.

Of course, Gardiner is a riskier defensive liability than his peers mentioned above, which lowers his value slightly. Still, this deal screams bargain when you look at the lack of production from various blueliners making substantially more than Gardiner.

With that in mind, here are a handful of defencemen from around the league who in the past three years signed similar contracts to the one Gardiner just inked:

— Ben Chariot: three years, $10.5 million, $3.5-million cap hit
— Ian Cole: three years, $12.75 million, $4.25-million cap hit

— Kris Russell: four years, $16 million, $4-million cap hit
— Josh Manson: four years, $16.4 million, $4.1-million cap hit
— Brendan Smith: four years, $17.4 million, $4.35-million cap hit
— Calvin De Haan: four years, $18.2 million, $4.55-million cap hit

— Karl Alzner: five years, $23.125 million, $4.625-million cap hit
— Jason Demers: five years, $22.5 million, $4.5-million cap hit
— Jack Johnson: five years, $16.25 million, $3.25-million cap hit

Jake Gardiner on leaving the Maple Leafs & joining the Hurricanes
September 06 2019

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