It’s no secret that the Sabres have been acquiring seemingly all the defensemen this offseason. With every move, it makes a Rasmus Ristolainen trade appear more and more likely.
But there is one unrestricted free agent out there who could be a steal for any team that signs him.
29-year-old Jake Gardiner is on the market and the Sabres should seriously consider signing him.
Gardiner was a 1st round (17th overall) selection by the Anaheim Ducks in 2008. However, he never played an NHL game for them. Instead, he’s spent eight seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs, racking up 45 goals and 200 assists in 551 games.
Gardiner’s advanced metrics show that he has been a dependable defenseman both on offense on defense. Some Toronto fans might disagree after they were the ones watching him for so long, but the veteran still has proven to be a strong defender for the Leafs.
Excuse me while I slide in here with my chart to say that Jake Gardiner is very much an offensive defenseman at 5v5 and it’s bad defensively either… pic.twitter.com/SFvjoAAlmA
— Josh (@jscardina23) July 12, 2019
Buffalo would probably be looking for a short-term deal for Gardiner if they are interested. It’d be difficult to sign him to anything over 3-4 years, and I’m not certain they’d want to anyway.
Signing Gardiner would open the door wide open for Ristolainen to finally be traded.
Ristolainen does most of his damage on the power play, which is a great quality, but the Sabres have a bigger need on offense.
Ristolainen is literally a power play specialist which is the last thing the Jets need right now. He’s not good 5v5 which is where the Jets need the most help, especially on the back end. Not to mention us having to pay Ehlers would be insane. pic.twitter.com/4mUJtE8i19
— Bryan Johnston (@BryanJohnston18) July 10, 2019
Gardiner would be a great replacement, and a potential upgrade, over Ristolainen. Getting him and trading Risto for a legitimate goal-scorer up front could help this team put an end to the near decade-long playoff drought.
This was one of my favourite goals from this year. Jake Gardiner with a beautiful goal. Great set up by John Tavares (no look pass too). If Gardiner signs somewhere, I'll understand. It's a business. But, Jake Gardiner will always be a Toronto Maple Leaf for me. pic.twitter.com/Qe1rcw002p
— Josh Tessler (@JoshTessler_) April 26, 2019