Wednesday afternoon reports started to surface that Wisconsin junior defenseman Jake Gardiner had told the Badger coaching staff that he planned to sign a pro contract at the outset of the 2010-2011 season.
Gardiner, an original first round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks was traded last week to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto GM Brian Burke was on the local radio station 590 The Fan and made the claim about Gardiner signing after the season.
The exact quote from Burke was, "His plan I think is, what he's told the coaches at Wisconsin would be to come out after the season, and then we think he'd need, ya know our hope is a half a year in the American league or a Keith Aulie progression and then he'd be ready to play."
WSJ reporter Andy Baggot was able to speak with Gardiner Thursday afternoon and Gardiner refuted the reports saying simply, "I never said that." According to Baggot's report, Eaves also confirmed that no conversation ever took place.
It would have been no surprise to anyone if Gardiner did intend to turn pro after the season. An elite player like himself would certainly be given the max rookie contract or close to it by the Maple Leafs.
What is interesting is that Burke would make such a claim with the media if in fact Gardiner had not indicated to the coaches at Wisconsin that he planned to leave. In Baggots piece he asked Gardiner why Burke would make such a statement and Gardiner said, "I'm sure he just wants me to sign."
Does this leave an opening for Gardiner, who is an alternate captain this season for the Badgers to return for his senior season? Absolutely it does.
For now, let's just enjoy his talents while he's in cardinal and white.
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