Insider Trading: Gardiner slipping under UFA radar

With all of the talk surrounding William Nylander still being unsigned and both Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner headed toward big paydays as restricted free agents next summer, there’s a defenseman on the Leafs somewhat quietly poised to get a noticeable salary hike for 2019-20.

“Here’s a player who has kind of slipped under the free agent radar, and that is of course Jake Gardiner, who is a pending unrestricted free agent on July 1,” noted Darren Dreger during Wednesday evening’s edition of TSN’s Insider Trading. “And when you look at the bigger picture in terms of the cap issues that the Leafs are going to face, just add one more body into that mix.

“Jake Gardiner is coming off a career year of 52 points. If he were to equal that or better that this season, he’s going to command as an unrestricted free agent in the high 6s or the low 7s.

“So dialogue between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Jake Gardiner expected to get underway in the next several weeks.”

Gardiner is playing out the final season of his five-year, $20.25 million contract, which carries a $4.05 million cap hit and does not have any trade protection written into it.

Contract-related info via CapFriendly