The Star-Tribune's Michael Russo is reporting that the Leafs have signed Jake Gardiner of the Winsconsin Badgers to an entry level contract:
Lastly, according to multiple NHL sources, the Toronto Maple Leafs signed University of Wisconsin junior defenseman Jake Gardiner to an entry-level contract tonight. The former Minnetonka Skipper star had a fabulous final season with the Badgers with 10 goals and 41 points and was a mainstay on Wisconsin's second-ranked WCHA defense.
Gardiner can skate like the wind and will get a heck of a chance in Toronto. Brian Burke, who traded for him in the Francois Beauchemin deal, drafted Gardiner in Anaheim.
The specifics haven't been released but Damien Cox is speculating that he'll sign an amateur tryout for the remainder of the year and the ELC will kick in next year. That might as well be coming from Brian Burke. Looking at clrkaitken's helpful guide to NHL waivers, the benefit of doing it this way has to do with keeping him waiver exempt from 2011-2012 through to 2013-2014 and, if I read it correctly, for an extra 80 NHL games.
This move was a long time coming as Wisconsin blog No Alibis, No Regrets noted about a month ago that Gardiner had informed the coaching staff that he would not be returning to the team for his senior season. His college career ended this past weekend when his Badgers were eliminated from NCAA tournament contention by Colorado College. This puts the promotion of Matt Lashoff into context as the Marlies and Leafs will now both carry seven defencemen.
3. Jake Gardiner looks like a solid prospect. From Bob McKenzie:
Strength of Jake Gardiner's game is his skating. All-world skater.
Gardiner is 6'2", an excellent skater and his NHL equivalency suggests he can put up points:
Jake Gardiner currently projects to about 34 points per 82 games at the NHL level, applying Gabe Desjardins' NHLE - @SlavaDuris
So as an NCAA junior we could expect Gardiner to put up about 34 points if he played in the NHL next year. He's a real deal prospect. HockeysFuture.com had him behind only Cam Fowler on their Anaheim prospect ratings, ahead of Emerson Etem, and Kyle Palmieri. Here's their take on Gardiner:
At 6’2/178 lbs, Gardiner has good size and strength that he also uses to his advantage, both offensively and defensively. He can finish his checks very well. Where Gardiner is particularly dangerous are in the areas in front of the net and along the boards. He is strong on his skates and is a difficult player to move off of the puck. And coupled with his size, speed and long reach, he can also be just as tough to beat. As his body matures, Gardiner will become an even more dominant and effective force on the blueline. - Hockey's Future
Let's thank Francois Beauchemin for his time in Toronto, let's be hopeful that this signifies an end to the constant "rebuild on the fly" we've endured since the lockout and let's be excited about adding a legitimate high end prospect.