Maple Leafs sign Jake Gardiner to 5-year deal

Toronto Maple Leafs' Jake Gardiner during a practice at the MasterCard Centre on December 30, 2013....

Toronto Maple Leafs' Jake Gardiner during a practice at the MasterCard Centre on December 30, 2013. (Ernest Doroszuk/Toronto Sun/QMI Agency)

LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:32 PM ET

The Maple Leafs will have five more years to get a handle on talented, but often wayward defenceman Jake Gardiner.

The club brought its last major unsigned player back with a bang on Tuesday evening, a five-year contract valued at $20.25 million US. The $4 million annual cap hit puts Toronto over the 2014-15 ceiling by about $1 million, but there will be time to address that before opening night.

Gardiner, who turned 24 this month, had 31 points in 80 games as he entered restricted free agency. The Minnesota native is a wonderful skater who can move up in the play and get back in a hurry, but still often plays too loose for the coaching staff’s liking.

Originally a first-round pick of Anaheim in the 2008 draft, he came to the Leafs in a trade with winger Joffrey Lupul for defenceman Francois Beauchemin and a draft pick.


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