In his end-of-season scrum, Mark Giordano laid out one priority when choosing his next move on the cusp of unrestricted free agency: to win.
So lump him in with the pile of those who still believe in the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Demonstrating The Passion, Giordano has signed a two-year contract extension with his hometown club worth $1.6 million. His $800,000 average annual salary, which is a fraction of what was estimated to be out there on the open market, is just over the veteran minimum.
🖊 We’ve signed defenceman Mark Giordano to a two-year contract extension. #LeafsForever
— Toronto Maple Leafs (@MapleLeafs) May 22, 2022
Giordano, 38, came to Toronto at the trade deadline in a deal with the Seattle Kraken, who made him their first-ever captain in their inaugural season following his selection from the Calgary Flames. He stepped in and immediately helped solidify the Leafs' bottom pair, forming an undeniably effective, though somewhat sheltered, partnership with Timothy Liljegren.
He spent the majority of his minutes in the seven-game postseason loss to the Tampa Bay Lighting alongside Justin Holl, continuing to drive decent results.
The former Norris Trophy winner had 35 points in 75 games split between Seattle and Toronto.
Giordano's contract is one of many cost-effective deals Kyle Dubas and the Maple Leafs braintrust must broker this offseason as it continues to build around its high-priced core. Though it's possible a major move frees up some money, management remains undeterred after six consecutive first-round losses, indicating that it plans to move forward with largely the same group.
Included in that nucleus is Morgan Rielly, who will eat up the extra $1 million tacked to the NHL's salary cap, and some, while owed a $2.5 million raise.
While an undeniably logical and high-value move, Giordano's extension does raise questions about the other defenders under team control.
Behind Rielly and in addition to Giordano, Jake Muzzin and Rasmus Sandin also play the left side. Muzzin is coming off a nightmare season, but rebounded in the playoffs and remains a large part of the team's beating heart. Sandin, meanwhile, did not get into a game following the Giordano acquisition after suffering an injury in late March. He was elevated to the active roster during Round 1, but did not draw into the lineup.
Muzzin is an obvious trade candidate on the surface, but carries a no-trade clause on a contract which includes two more seasons at a $5.625 million price tag. Sandin is a restricted free agent after the final season on his entry-level deal was burned before he was able to establish himself as a full-time NHL defenceman.
It's possible that either Muzzin or Sandin could be moved in an offseason trade, though it's likely only the latter possesses any value on the open market. Whether he's a mainstay in the lineup or used in a deal that brings back a missing piece, at some point Sandin, the asset, has to start working for the Leafs.
Another interesting summer in Leaf Land is underway.
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