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Jardine’s taken a long, twisted route from Toronto to St. John’s and Newfoundland Growlers

Defenceman Sam Jardine (right) made his Newfoundland Growlers debut at Mile One Centre last weekend against the Fort Wayne Komets, including his numerical counterpart, Marc-Oliver Roy (left).
Defenceman Sam Jardine (right) made his Newfoundland Growlers debut at Mile One Centre last weekend against the Fort Wayne Komets, including his numerical counterpart, Marc-Oliver Roy (left). - Newfoundland Growlers/Jeff Parsons

Defenceman arrives in St. John’s, but it took a lot of dominos to fall before he landed with ECHL squad

It took a series of transactions to make it happen, but defenceman Sam Jardine became a member of the Newfoundland Growlers last week.

You may be wondering why it required a few dominos falling to get Jardine to the ECHL’s Growlers. After all, he is a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ organization, and has been for a year and a half as the result of having been signed to back-to-back contracts with the Toronto Marlies, the Growlers’ and the Maple Leafs’ AHL affiliate.

The convolution begins with the Orlando Solar Bears, Toronto’s former AHL partner. (Perhaps you can consider the following as part of the ongoing education we need about the differences between the ways the ECHL and AHL operate).

Except for one AHL game with Toronto, the 25-year-old Jardine had spent the entire 2017-18 season with Orlando. And here’s the key: he had signed an ECHL deal with the Solar Bears before getting that later upgrade to the Marlies’ deal.

So at the end of the season, Orlando had the opportunity to retain his ECHL rights (teams can do so with up to eight players), which it did. That meant if Jardine had been cut by the Marlies out of their training camp last fall, or demoted sometime after the start of the season, if he was to go to the ECHL, it would have to be Orlando.

That didn’t happen. Jardine remained with the Marlies, and even though the team has had a bevy of defencemen on the roster since Game 1, injuries and adherence to the AHL’s “veteran” rules played a part in Jardine getting into 26 AHL games.

In the meantime, Orlando transferred Jardine’s ECHL rights to the Allen Americans as part of an early January trade. And less than two weeks later, Allen flipped those rights to the Growlers.

At the time, it wasn’t specified as to what the Americans were getting in return, although it should be noted Newfoundland owed Allen future considerations for the acquisition of defenceman Tate Olson earlier in the season … and just days after the Growlers got Jardine’s ECHL rights, the Marlies loaned forward Emerson Clark to the Americans.

After all those snakes and ladders moves, Jardine is now sitting on the Growlers’ square on the game board.

A native of Lacombe, Alta., the 6-2, 210-pound Jardine played for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Camrose Kodiaks before attending the Ohio University, where his teammates included future Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel.

While with Camrose, Jardine captained Team Canada West to a gold medal at the World Junior A Challenge and was selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the sixth round of the 2011 NHL draft.

Jardine never signed with Chicago, but did ink an AHL deal with the organization, splitting his first pro season (2015-16) between the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs and ECHL Indy Fuel.

That’s sort of been the story for Jardine ever since: it was San Antonio (AHL) and Colorado (ECHL) in 2016-17; the Solar Bears and Marlies (albeit briefly) last season and now, the Marlies and Growlers.

In all, Jardine has appeared in 152 ECHL games (10 G, 33 A, 170 PIMS) and 60 in the AHL (4G, 8A, 103 PIMS).

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Outside off Timothy Liljegren’s one-game conditioning stint, Jardine’s assignment is the first of a defenceman from the Marlies to the Growlers since the start of the current season.

(Kyle Cumiskey, since gone to the AHL’s Providence Bruins, did come the Growlers after attending the Marlies’ camp, but only technically signed an ECHL deal after being released by Toronto).

There hasn’t been much activity involving blueliners going the other way either, although one was very significant — the promotion of Stefan Leblanc in December.

It was a move that was warranted — Leblanc was arguably the Growlers’ best defenceman through the first third of the season and looked to be AHL quality (and after all, he had spent all of 2017-18, his rookie pro season, with the AHL’s Laval Rocket).

That didn’t change with the Marlies, where he worked his way to a second-pairing job. But a return to health by others and the demotion of Martin Marincin by the Maple Leafs meant the Marlies were up to double digits in defenceman (including eight signed to NHL contracts). Leblanc, on an AHL deal, got nudged out (much like Jardine did) and rather than return him to the Newfoundland, he was traded to the AHL’s Utica Comets for a forward.

It was probably a choice between doing a favour for the Growlers or the player, and the Leafs/Marlies went with the latter, perhaps knowing they would be reassigning Jardine to the Growlers.

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Finally, a note on Tate Olson, mentioned earlier.

The 21-year-old appeared in five games for the Growlers after being acquired from Allen, was released by Newfoundland and claimed by the ECHL’s Florida Everblades.

But in December, after one game with Florida, he decided to exercise his option to attend university and to take advantage, while he could, of the collegiate funding he had built up over five junior seasons in the Western Hockey League.

Olson, who had been a seventh-round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2015, is now at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. where he plays for the Axemen of the Atlantic universities conference.

brendan.mccarthy@thetelegram.com

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