NHL Trade Rumors: Why the Maple Leafs Won't Deal Jake Gardiner This Season

Jon ReidCorrespondent IIOctober 8, 2013

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 02:  Jake Gardiner #51 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on October 2, 2013 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Three games into the season, and the media has already started floating NHL trade rumors regarding young Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner.

The media storm began when Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports and Hockey Night in Canada wrote an article and inserted a small blurb about the Leafs having conversations with other teams about Gardiner.

Friedman goes on to speculate as to what teams he believes could be involved (Florida, Dallas and Minnesota are his best guesses).

With Gardiner not fitting head coach Randy Carlyle's typical mould for defensemen, and Morgan Rielly being the same type of player as Gardiner, speculation has been percolating in Toronto for quite some time.

The notion of the Leafs dealing Gardiner this season, though, is still ridiculous.

Right now, Gardiner represents Toronto's top puck-moving blueliner.

Those guys are important for every team, but it's even more important for a team that struggles so much with puck possession like, say, the Leafs.

Moving Gardiner at any point this season would make clearing their own zone even harder than it already is. That could really hurt the team's chances of returning to the postseason in 2014.

Gardiner is also Toronto's most proven commodity when it comes to young, fast, puck-handling defensemen. So many refer to Rielly as being able to replace Gardiner, allowing Toronto to deal Gardiner for a package of players who could address some of the other team's needs (like a first-line center).

The problem is, Rielly isn't close to being ready to take over full time at the NHL level and probably won't be by the trade deadline either.

It would be irresponsible to deal Gardiner and expect Rielly to be able to fill his shoes any time soon.

Then there's the fact that his contract is incredibly manageable. That's something the Leafs need since they're right up against the salary cap's ceiling.

If the team were to trade Gardiner and have Rielly take his spot, it would also leave the team very thin in terms of depth on the blue line.

Finally, the type of deal the Leafs would likely be looking for (mainly a top center) isn't one that's typically put together during the regular season.

Whether or not you're a fan of trading the 23-year-old defenseman, it simply isn't a likely scenario this year.

There may be phone calls and speculation, but don't expect the Leafs to trade him before next offseason, if at all.