With the Stanley Cup finally wrapped up, it is time for the craziest time of the NHL season, the offseason.
That’s right, it is officially silly season. Over the next few weeks, we will be hearing non-stop chatter around what every team is looking to do in the NHL Draft. Plus, the official opening of free agency is July 1st.
We have already heard a few whispers around the Blackhawks this offseason with many of those whispers centering on the Blackhawks’ defensive depth.
The one that really caught my attention was one pertaining to what Pierre McGuire has been hearing around the free agent landscape.
Jake Gardiner to the Blackhawks?
How does that sound to everyone? Personally, as someone who has watched the career of Jake Gardiner, I don’t hate the idea of him in the Blackhawks top four.
Of course that will depend on a ton of different factors, but lets first take a look at Gardiner’s career thus far.
Gardiner is a puck moving, offensive-minded defenseman who has been a very consistent offensive performer for the majority of his career. He posted a career high in points just a season ago with 52 points.
He did battle injury this season, but was able to suit up for 62 games for Toronto and posted 30 points.
One major strength for Gardiner has been his possession numbers. Much like with Colin Miller, who I highlighted earlier this week, Gardiner would have been the top rated regular in Corsi.
Gardiner was also very split in his offensive and defensive zone starts, something the Blackhawks did not employ with any of their defenseman.
What Does It All Mean?
When looking at Jake Gardiner on paper, he has been a possession and offensive focused defenseman for the Maple Leafs.
However, his gaffes in prior high pressure situations, such as his performance in Game 7 between Boston and Toronto back in 2018, brings with it some concern for teams looking to sign him this offseason.
Even with that poor play in a high leverage situation, I still see Gardiner as a top four defenseman in this league. With that being said, is he the right type of top four defenseman the Blackhawks should be targeting?
My answer would be no.
Reasons to Avoid Jake Gardiner
The real reason being the Blackhawks have a similar type player in Erik Gustafsson who is cheaper, younger and already has a build in chemistry with Patrick Kane on the power play.
I think it is safe to say that Gardiner is the better overall defenseman between the two, but are the few steps better in defensive capability really going to be worth the $5-$6 million more that you will be paying him?
I don’t think so.
Personally, I am all for completely reshaping this defensive group, but with players like Brent Seabrook being completely untradeable and a bunch of middle to lower tier defenseman, excluding Duncan Keith, reshaping your defensive core is going to be a difficult task.
Gardiner might be the second best defenseman on the market, and possibly, the most sure bet on the defensive market. Another option this offseason is Erik Karlsson, but his injury history worries me.
Also, there are other defensemen available via trade that can be a better fit. Some of these players wouldn’t be as much of a financial burden as Gardiner.
I would not be upset if Gardiner is Stan Bowman’s choice, but if he is, then there needs to be more changes coming with him. Otherwise, next season might be more of the same for the Blackhawks’ defense.