The Toronto Maple Leafs are reportedly listening to trade offers for young, talented defenseman Jake Gardiner, according to CBC Sports' Elliotte Friedman. Backing up statements he made on TV Saturday (2:30 mark of this video), Friedman penned a column on Monday saying Gardiner could be on his way out the door:
There is definitely some level of conversation going on between other teams and Toronto involving Jake Garinder. I despise the word "shopped," as it's more like a feeling-out process. If the Maple Leafs do decide to do it, it's going to be for a young asset or assets. So, you have to look at teams with talented young players. This is PURELY my speculation, but if teams like Dallas, Florida or Minnesota would be interested, you could see a match.
As Toronto's fans wondered about the fortunes of the 23-year-old talent, Maple Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle confirmed that the team hasn't placed Gardiner on the trading block, per SN 590 The FAN on Twitter:
Much of the speculation behind the trade rumors centers around the relationship between Gardiner and his coach Randy Carlyle, who was one of the NHL's premier defensemen during the 1980s. Dating back to last season, according to the National Post's Michael Traikos, there have been mentions of a rift between Gardiner and Carlyle, who runs a tight ship.
There's no doubting Gardiner's skating ability and potential to add some offense from the blue line, but it appears he's been inconsistent since posting five points in an impressive six-game playoff series against the Boston Bruins last year.
Before training camp broke, Jonas Siegel of TSN 1050 offered this comment from Carlyle:
Asked Randy Carlyle if Jake Gardiner was resembling player from playoffs. "No. He's not."— Jonas Siegel (@jonasTSN1050) September 28, 2013
But can the Maple Leafs even afford to lose Gardiner from their defense? Sure, promising 19-year-old Morgan Rielly might be ready to help make an impact in Toronto, but Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun recently questioned the team's defense:
Paul Ranger is really struggling. Jake Gardiner and Gunnarsson look somewhat lost. Leafs may have depth on D but do they have any good ones?— steve simmons (@simmonssteve) October 3, 2013
Carlyle's intense approach has rubbed some of his players the wrong way. On Saturday, former Maple Leaf and current Ottawa Senator Clarke MacArthur delivered a sharp criticism of Carlyle's coaching style. Carlyle also drew some venom from Mikhail Grabovski after Toronto bought out his contract this offseason.