Jake Gardiner enjoyed such a breakout season two years ago. Then, a back injury and getting shuttled out of Toronto’s plans spurned him. Ultimately, a change of address was coming for a variety of reasons.
That came to fruition on Friday as Jake Gardiner signed a four-year, $16.2 million pact to play for the Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s dig a little deeper into the Hurricanes signing.
What Jake Gardiner means to the Carolina Hurricanes
Gardiner was one of the better power-play defensemen for Toronto the previous two years. Last year, Morgan Rielly was given that role and prospered. Most forget that the defenseman had seasons of 43 and 52 points before a back injury cost him 20 games plus any playoff effectiveness.
Jake Gardiner experienced quite a dropoff as he averaged a hair less than 1.25 shots per game. 2014-15 saw a similar drop and deployment was partly the culprit along with that back injury. His shooting percentage steadied at 3.8%. Opportunities dipped because of utilization, his power-play time dropped to almost none, and the result was playing just over 21 minutes a night.
Now, the contract is signed and sealed. The first question asked has to be, can Gardiner bounce back in Carolina? What does one define as bouncing back? Does Gardiner even see power-play time with the Hurricanes? There are plenty of questions and scenarios to play out first.
Gardiner upgrades the offense and can play defensively well enough – aside from some gaffes. One can live with those mistakes given the production potential. The solid metrics and even zone deployment offer Carolina a solid option to place on their second or third pairing for the 2019-20 campaign.
Here is a PuckPedia snapshot on Jake Gardiner.
The #Canes sign 29 y/o Jake Gardiner to 4 year $4.05M Cap Hit Deal.
-3G 30P in 62GP
-61% 5v5 GF
-53% Expected GF
— PuckPedia (@PuckPedia) September 6, 2019
Next, there is the numerology.
The numerology of Jake Gardiner
Fortunately, Gardiner expects to just put the 2018-19 season behind him. However, the idea here is to take a look at it anyway. Featuring this combined with the previous two years absolves the defenseman of much blame in Toronto.
Possession metrics look slightly positive relative to the team for Gardiner. The defenseman maintained a +1.5% relative last year and that was slightly off from previous years. More than likely the back injury was a bit of a culprit along with how his ice time was distributed.
Consequently, many point to that his expected goals for was still up compared to most defenseman even on his team.
Here is a standardized RAPM chart from Evolving Hockey.
Alas, easier minutes will likely greet the rearguard in 2019-20 along with a bump up on the power play. Unfortunately, training camp comes quickly and this move was predicated on Gardiner’s health.
This move pushes Carolina over the salary cap by about $1.5 million. It creates a necessity to become cap compliant but upgraded the Hurricanes’ defense further. They have one of the best blueline corps in the NHL…period!
The details of the Jake Gardiner deal
The Gardiner pact features a four-year contract for $4.05 million AAV which is right around what he made in Toronto the past few seasons. Further details like signing bonuses will come out later. Also, if there are any NTC or NMC notes to pass along, those will be updated accordingly.
Some final words on Jake Gardiner
Finally, Carolina makes the move I thought they would execute earlier in the summer. This is the old better late than ever and the Hurricanes benefitted. Carolina can either get cap compliant or make even more moves to gain flexibility. Carolina’s roster size is 24. Becoming cap compliant should be an easy fix.
Gardiner adds another puck-moving dynamic along with solid play-making abilities. This move means Justin Faulk might be expendable. It is just something to keep an eye on as camp and the season go on.