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Leafs Extend Gardiner

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The Maple Leafs have extended Jake Gardiner for five years at $4.05M per year.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs have done something very smart here in my estimation. All talk prior to this news was about signing a bridge deal for Gardiner: something like a two year contract for low money to see what he is.

The problem with a bridge deal (exaggerated to great effect in PK Subban) is that if you know that a player is good you aren't really using the bridge to evaluate him, you're keeping his cap hit low for two years in an effect to extract value from his deal right now.

With the Canadiens that might be a defensible strategy: they're a playoff team right now. The Leafs on the other hand drafted fifth eighth last year and though we hope that retooling the bottom six will pay off I don't think anyone sensible would bet their house that the Leafs are a playoff lock.

With that in mind a bridge deal here wouldn't have made sense. The Leafs would have extracted value in seasons they don't need cap relief and pushed extra burden to seasons that they do. We'd certainly hope that three years from now the Leafs are ready to compete and this deal sees Gardiner on a very reasonable cap hit then.

On Dubas' Involvement

I've seen members of what @67sound calls the Flat Earth Crew already sarcastically chirping that this must all be Dubas, as if people seriously believe that Dubas came in a week ago and signed a ton of players without any input from anyone.

Much like the myth of the stat nerd who doesn't watch games, no one thinks Kyle Dubas is running the show a week after taking the job. What fans are excited about is that the team is taking a new direction here. One of the signs of that new direction is that the Leafs signed a ton of smart cheap deals to fill the bottom six with actual hockey players like Mike Santorelli, David Booth, Daniel Winnik and to a lesser degree Petri Kontiola at the expense of dead weight like Frazer McLaren and Colton Orr. Another sign is that Dubas hiring.

Do I think Kyle Dubas had a big say in the Gardiner contract? No, but his hiring is a symptom of the new thinking that got that deal done.

Counterpoint

"The long-term wasn't something we thought of originally," said Nonis. "But (we) talked about it the past week and they had interest and once we did it, came together pretty quickly." - Dave Nonis via Michael Grange