Mark Giordano returns to Leafs defense with local discount

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Hi, welcome back Mark Giordano.

It’s been a, what, five days since you left?

Well no faded away faded away. But it certainly had an aura of goodbye when the Maple Leafs defenseman confronted reporters on cleanup day last Tuesday. The contract had run its course for the seasoned defender, acquired from the Seattle Kraken on March 20.

But lo and behold, the Leafs announced on Sunday that the 38-year-old had been renewed, inked for a two-year, $1.6 million (US) extension.

Toronto has always been looking for a quality, playoff-hardened rear guard, with the blue line a pervasive question of doubt before, during and after the team was ousted in the first round around 2022. Apparently it was already there. .

“We are delighted that Mark has chosen to re-sign with the Maple Leafs,” general manager Kyle Dubas said in a statement released by the club. “Mark arrived at the deadline and provided a veteran, stabilizing the presence in our backline while improving our defensive game dramatically. Everything he does is done to help the team win and that includes a huge sacrifice in this contract negotiation.

By which Dubas means a team-friendly hometown discount for the Toronto native. And profitable discounts in every direction must be eagerly sought after by a team with just $11 million in salary cap space, 13 players under contract and at least seven more to lock in under budget. The unrestricted free agent bracket includes Jack Campbell, Ilya Mikheyev and Ilya Lyubushkin.

To hear him say it, Giordano was over the moon when he landed in Toronto at the trade deadline, with Colin Blackwell, in exchange for two second-round draft picks and a third, with Seattle retaining 6.75 million on an expiring horn contract. dimensions signed six years ago with the Calgary Flames: $40.5 million.

“It’s pretty special to be able to say that you’re from here and that you played for the organization,” Giordano said on arrival. “Getting older, with kids, changes a lot in life. You really cherish those times, especially my kids seeing their grandparents. It means a lot to the kids and obviously to my parents and to my wife’s parents. So that’s cool.

He played minor hockey in North York and Richmond Hill. Attended York University.

“I want to take advantage of it. It’s a great opportunity.

Particularly with the Leafs, a good bet – didn’t we all think so? – to deepen the post-season. The Lightning shattered that dream in seven games.

Especially, moreover, for a fellow longtime captain with the Flames; Co-anointed, too, in Seattle’s inaugural season — still seeking a first Stanley Cup after 16 years in the league. The stars seemed to have aligned. Ha.

To the extent that Giordano was able to secure an unsubtle plea with the club before leaving the stage, he did so in his comments to the media.

“Everyone knows I’m from Toronto. I really like it here. I loved my stay here. I feel like I can still help the team move the needle forward. I feel pretty good about my game. I can also help young people along the way.

That – a guiding mentor to the likes of Timothy Liljegren and Rasmus Sandin – is indisputable. Although the Leafs have defense deans in Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin, the latter is increasingly being mentioned as trade bait, a move that would take $5.62 million off the payroll. But do the Leafs really want to part ways with a playoff warrior and the most physical among their blueline executives?

The unrestricted free agent market — if the Leafs determine what’s available — opens July 13.

Giordano may not necessarily be the guy, but he’s the occasional Toronto guy for the next two years.

A gracious and steady presence, Giordano recorded 12 points in 20 regular-season games for Toronto down the stretch, paired mostly with Justin Holl (for his sins), and threw a few assists against Tampa Bay in the playoffs. Strangely, it was his first Game 7 experience.

“The stakes are higher. Every game, every shift means so much,” he observed. “There hasn’t been much of a difference between the two teams for the whole series, but especially this game 7. You’ve seen how tight it is and how hard it is to win in this game. You think about each game. You go back in your mind and think about what you could have done differently as a player.

Throughout his career, Giordano appeared in three NHL All-Star Games and was awarded the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman in 2018-19, which wasn’t that long. He had 544 points (151 goals, 393 assists) in 1,024 regular season games with three teams and nine points in 30 playoff games.

It’s all hockey. Although Giordano said the last time he spoke — he couldn’t reach him on Sunday — he didn’t really have the stomach to listen to the rest of the playoffs.

“Right now it’s hard to watch hockey at all.”

Probably just got a little cozier, from his La-Z-Boy from Toronto.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist who covers sports and current affairs for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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