Word has broke today that University of Wisconsin defenseman Jake Gardiner, who was recently traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs from the Anaheim Ducks has informed the coaching staff at Wisconsin that he intends to sign a pro contract at the end of the Badgers season.
According to Ryan Cardinal, a writer for the Gopher Puck Live website, Toronto general manager Brian Burke was on the Toronto radio station the FAN 590 today and said that Gardiner has told the coaching staff that he won't be back.
The news is hardly shocking to anyone who has followed the program. Gardiner has had 2 solid seasons in cardinal and white and is having an All-American type season in his junior campaign.
It's also rare that a first round draft pick, and a player of Gardiners caliber use all four years of eligibility. Gardiner will fall in line with what has seemed to be a trend for high end Wisconsin defenseman signing after their junior seasons. Jamie McBain (Carolina Hurricanes), Brendan Smith (Grand Rapids Griffins, AHL), Cody Goloubef (Springfield Falcons, AHL), and Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers) all singed pro contracts with a year of eligibility remaining.
Whenever the Badgers finish up their run in the NCAA tournament, it's expected that Gardiner will turn pro immediately to get in some pro games with either Toronto's AHL team, the Toronto Marlies or even possibly with the big club.
A native of Minnetonaka, Minnesota, Gardiner is having his best statistical season as a Badger. The former 17th overall pick has 8 goals and 24 assists for 32 points in 32 games for Wisconsin. Gardiner's brother Max, who plays for Minnesota will be in town this weekend to face Jake and the Badgers.
Photo courtesy of BHockey10
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