TSN reports the Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed defenseman Jake Gardiner to a five-year, $20.25 million contract extension. 

Jake Gardiner signs a 5-year extension with the Leafs.

Jake Gardiner signs a 5-year extension with the Leafs.

 SPECTOR’S NOTE: The new deal is worth $4.05 million per season, a significant pay raise for a young blueliner coming off an entry-level contract. Gardiner tallied 10 goals and 31 points last season with the Leafs in 81 games, but he also reportedly struggled under head coach Randy Carlyle, becoming the frequent subject of trade rumors.

With this contract the Leafs are indicating their willingness to stick with Gardiner for the long-term, though his contract is a bit of an eye-raiser. I expected he’d get a two-year bridge contract worth around $2.5 million annually. This deal also suggests the Leafs envision Gardiner playing a much larger role on their blueline in the coming years.

It also creates an interesting situation for young Leafs center Nazem Kadri. While Gardiner’s a defenseman and Kadri’s a center, both are apparently seen as key young pieces of the Leafs roster. Like Gardiner, Kadri was also the subject of trade speculation last season but GM Dave Nonis said he wouldn’t move either player unless he got a player of equivalent skill and age in return. Kadri is in the final year of his contract earning $2.9 million, and could point to Gardiner’s recent raise as a basis for his next deal.