Mirtle: Could the Leafs really trade Jake Gardiner?
That basic description also applies to both Gardiner and Rielly, and with Gardiner – for all his talents – still more unpredictable than Carlyle wants, that could make him another odd-man out.
The problem here is that the Leafs really don’t have any cap space – it’s getting down into five digits territory – so they can’t exactly move Gardiner for a more established centre or defenceman (their two biggest needs) that makes more than his modest base salary ($875,000).
That means swapping a young player for a young player, and in the case of Gardiner – who barely played in the NHL last season due to concussion, consistency and coaching issues – they’d be selling low.
For all the good in their first three games, it’s also pretty clear that the Leafs would benefit from an upgrade on the blueline. As always, Phaneuf remains tasked with too much, and the unit in general looks like one that’s making only $15.7-million.
If moving Gardiner meant they could add a two-way defender that could log tough minutes and ease the burden on Phaneuf and Gunnarsson, it might make some sense. Given that’s not possible, the best course of action is probably to live through some of these growing pains and allow the blueline to be more of a skilled, skating one than Carlyle would typically want.