As the red-hot Maple Leafs went into Steeltown USA Saturday night for a clash with the Penguins, most of the focus was on Phil Kessel and his feelings towards his old club. After a few media scrums, it was obvious Phil had moved on from the Maple Leafs. He mentioned he’s got two cups, he doesn’t care about any other team or any individual trophy for that matter.
The rest of the attention was still linked to Phil, as he asked Jake Gardiner if he was playing during the morning skate, and as you saw last night, Gardiner played.
Jake Gardiner played, but Jake Gardiner was awful Saturday night, and the worst part about it all was his quote after the game:
Jake Gardiner: "I felt good physically, but I wasn't really handling the puck well tonight. Not sure what that was about."
— Mark Masters (@markhmasters) February 18, 2018
Wait, what. You don’t know what that was? That’s concerning. You should. You should be able to admit, that you didn’t use the boards enough to clear the puck, or that you played too risky of a game tonight and it cost your team. Instead, you say “not sure what that was about”. Ring the alarm.
Oh, ‘Shakey Jakey’, you can be so good and then turn around 5 minutes later and be so bad. Paul Coffey one period, and the worst of Carl Gunnarsson the next.
It’s time for the Maple Leafs to set Jake free, and give him the change of scenery he desperately needs.
With the Maple Leafs giving Travis Dermott a serious look and considering their record with him in the lineup, Jake Gardiner is expendable. They play a very similar style as both can be a high-risk taker and very offensive minded. So it makes a ton of sense to keep Dermott in the lineup with his rookie contract and move on from the 4 plus million of Gardiner. One river-boat gambler is enough.
And before we speculate on where ‘Shakey Jakey’ could be headed, another reason the Leafs could afford to make this move is, regardless of the return, they have pieces on the Marlies that can help.
The Toronto Marlies are setting records in the AHL, and a ton of the reason is their stability on the back-end. We saw the cameo of Justin Holl, the kid looks like a player, they haven’t given Andrew Nielsen a look yet, and when Andreas Borgman was up, he at least made the easy plays up the boards.
Let’s ponder a few different types of deals that could involve Jake Gardiner and his Jekyll and Hyde play, it’s only some fun speculation, so don’t get too worked up, ok?:
- Jake Gardiner, Josh Leivo and a 2nd round pick for Colton Parayko
- Jake Gardiner, plus, for Jonas Brodin
- Jake Gardiner plus a couple pieces for Chris Tanev and Brandon Sutter
- Jake Gardiner and a pick for Adam Larsson
Those are some deals that would be interesting, to say the least.
The one with Vancouver could make the most sense. Tanev has ever been linked to Toronto and Brandon Sutter could be the perfect replacement for Tyler Bozak. Tanev can be a china doll though, so not sure how I feel about it. Another deal worth considering is a package to Carolina for Justin Faulk and Jordan Staal.
The Maple Leafs have a ton of assets to work with, should they choose to be active in the trade market. Having such a young team who enjoy each other’s company can be a huge hurdle with making any deals. There is a chance a trade could shake up the room, but the NHL is a business and maybe the team could use a shot in the arm that shows “hey kids, these types of game costly turnovers are not going to be tolerated”.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Jake Gardiner gets traded. It also wouldn’t surprise me if he sticks around. His inconsistent play can be the most frustrating to watch, and with a contract over 4 million and with the other options internally, trading Jake Gardiner makes a lot of sense for the Maple Leafs management. It will all depend, as always, on the return.
Gardiner still has enough upside to be apart of a true hockey deal, so it will be fun to see if his inconsistent play continues over the next week, if they decide to pull the trigger.
Just don’t ask Jake Gardiner about his play. Even he can’t explain it sometimes.