Jake Gardiner doesn't want outside forces to distract him.
One day after his agent Ben Hankinson (@benhankinson) caused a social media stir by tweeting the hashtag "#FreeJakeGardiner," the current Toronto Marlies defenceman said Wednesday he's not going to let it affect his on-ice performance.
"It’s just my agent’s thoughts and his choice to tweet that," Gardiner told reporters after the Marlies’ morning skate on Wednesday. "There are always distractions, especially in Toronto. Sometimes people can blow things out of proportion [but] I don't think he meant anything by it and I'm not going to let that distract me."
The tweet took some focus off the Maple Leafs Tuesday night after they dropped their third straight game, 5-2, to the Winnipeg Jets.
The native of Deephaven, Minn., was also quick to point out he doesn't want the AHL to become his permanent home.
"I’m just trying to play my game and get there as soon as possible," Gardiner said. "Nobody wants to be in the AHL for very long. Everybody wants to play in the NHL."
Speculation grew as to what the tweet meant for Gardiner, who has played in just two games with the Leafs this season and suffered a concussion during the NHL lockout last December. Still, Gardiner has been regarded as an important piece of Toronto's future puzzle.
The 22-year-old began the season on injured reserve, then made his debut in January. He was sent down after two contests with Toronto.
Should Gardiner play in three more games this year for the Leafs, he'll have to clear waivers if Toronto wants to send him back to the AHL, in which case the Leafs would risk losing him to a waiver claim.
In 40 games with the Marlies this year, the six-foot-two, 184-pound defenceman has 10 goals and 20 assists. He had a successful rookie campaign last season when he scored seven goals and 30 points in 75 games for the Leafs.