Carolina signs veteran defenseman Gardiner to four-year deal

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TORONTO, ON – APRIL 21: Jake Gardiner #51 of the Toronto Maple Leafs warms up prior to action against the Boston Bruins in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scotiabank Arena on April 21, 2019 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 4-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The Carolina Hurricanes announced Friday they signed 29-year-old free-agent defenseman Jake Gardiner to a four-year deal.

Gardiner, who played 551 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs, comes with an average salary cap hit of $4.05 million, the organization said via a news release.

Gardiner is lauded for his offensive abilities. He has 45 goals and 200 assists in his 551 games at the NHL level. He broke the 50-point plateau with 5 goals and 47 helpers in 2017-18.

“Jake is a solid veteran blueliner with a proven history of contributing offensively, including on the power play,” said general manager Don Waddell. “He’s had options this summer, but ultimately decided that Carolina is his best fit, and we’re thrilled to have him here.”

Carolina ranked No. 19 in the league last season with its 17.8 percent efficiency on the power play. However, Justin Williams and Micheal Ferland accounted for 15 of the team’s 44 power-play goals. Adding Gardiner as a quarterback may help offset some of the missing special-teams production.

The Hurricanes now find themselves about $1.5 million above the $81.5 million salary cap. They have a bit of a logjam with Dougie Hamilton, Justin Faulk, Brett Pesce, and Trevor van Riemsdyk all playing on the right side, meaning one of them — likely van Riemsdyk or Faulk — could be traded.

Still, the acquisition should sort out the team’s pairings. Previously, the right-handed Pesce could have found himself playing on the left side.

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