Toronto Maple Leafs: Jake Gardiner drawing interest from Islanders, Flames and Hurricanes

Jake Gardiner, Toronto Maple Leafs

Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner. Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

During TSN‘s nationally broadcast Sunday night game between the Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings, Insider Darren Dreger revealed that NHL teams are calling the Toronto Maple Leafs with interest in acquiring puck-moving defenceman Jake Gardiner. According to Dreger – who is the league’s most reputable insider – the three teams with interest in the Leafs blueliner are the New York Islanders, Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes.

There is no available evidence that should lead us to believe Maple Leafs general manager Dave Nonis is interested in dealing Gardiner, rather, simply a common knowledge that other clubs are trying to pry him out of Toronto.

The three named NHL clubs with an interest in the Leafs defenceman are currently placed outside of the league’s playoff picture in their respective conferences, thus, they are either rebuilding or failing to meet expectations. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and in an NHL landscape where coaches and GMs get fired regularly, the teams said to have interest in Gardiner are not a surprising group in the least.

The New York Islanders have been active on the trade front this season. Back on October 27, Isles GM Garth Snow pulled the trigger on a deal that brought sniper Thomas Vanek over from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for winger Matt Moulson, a 1st round pick in 2014, and a 2nd round pick in 2015. The Vanek trade has not propelled the Isles into playoff contention – they are last place in the Metropolitan Division with two months of the season in the books. In summation, it is not surprising the Islanders want to make player personnel change.

The Calgary Flames are an interesting trade-partner for Toronto. Only months after his termination from MLSE, former Leafs general manager, Brian Burke, was hired by the Flames as president of hockey operations. Burke has a track record of making transactions with former NHL club employers. As the GM in Toronto, he made more than one player swap with his previous team, the Anaheim Ducks. Don’t be surprised if at some point down the road the Flames and Leafs strike a trade deal (not necessarily for Gardiner).

The Carolina Hurricanes seem like the most likely trade-partner for the Leafs if a Jake Gardiner deal can be constructed in a way that both teams are satisfied with assets exchanged. As per TSN Insider Darren Dreger, the Canes might trade veteran defenceman Tim Gleason as soon as he returns from injury sometime this week – the Canes are active on the trade front.

The Gleason rumours alone are not enough to insinuate a deal will transpire, but the connecting of dots can start to be made. The Leafs could use an experienced defender like Gleason in the short-term. Also, defence is Toronto’s strongest area of depth amongst its stable of youth, perhaps making someone like Gardiner expendable. All that being said, if Gardiner is to be moved to Carolina it may not be in a deal for Tim Gleason, whose annual cap hit of $4 million is a little too rich for the Leafs blood at the moment, as they hover just under the payroll ceiling allotted each NHL club under the current salary cap system. Also, the Leafs may be more inclined to acquire a top tier centreman for Gardiner if possible, which could rule out Gleason.

According to Nick Kypreos of Rogers Sportsnet, Leaf trade talks for Jake Gardiner involve a young centre returning to the Leafs.