Gardiner trade speculation heats up in Toronto

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No shortage of trade talk in Toronto after the CBC’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday (video) and yesterday in his weekly 30 Thoughts column that Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner may be available.

14. There is definitely some level of conversation going on between other teams and Toronto involving Jake Gardiner. I despise the word “shopped,” as it’s more like a feeling-out process. If the Maple Leafs do decide to do it, it’s going to be for a young asset or assets. So, you have to look at teams with talented young players. This is PURELY my speculation, but if teams like Dallas, Florida or Minnesota would be interested, you could see a match.

15. The Gardiner talk surprised me, because he was so impressive against Boston in last year’s playoffs. There are scouts who still have questions, but most agree that he has a valuable skill — he can skate the puck out of trouble.

In response to the above, the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle sees a Gardiner trade as something the Leafs might consider if they can get the right return:

They’ve got a lot of similar elements in their top six, and they’re not particularly heavy on Randy Carlyle elements.

By that I mean the Leafs now have three cheap, young defencemen you would describe as offence-first, defence-second (Franson, Gardiner and Morgan Rielly) and really only two shutdown types (Carl Gunnarsson and Mark Fraser).

The only physical with a capital P options on the blueline, meanwhile, are Phaneuf and Fraser, the latter of whom is probably best suited for a No. 7 role and limited minutes.

But Mirtle brings up an important point — the Leafs are right up against the salary cap, and moving Gardiner would only free up $875,000 of space.

Gardiner, 23, is a tantalizing talent, particularly for his skating ability. His decision-making has been questionable at times, but that’s the case for a lot of young defensemen.