May 31 2013 08:48AM
Here's a good question: What's Nazem Kadri worth?
Not in the sense of dollars and cents, but how long should the Toronto Maple Leafs choose to commit to their young centreman? In the latest Leaf Report podcast, James Mirtle and Jonas Siegel begin talking about Kadri at around the 20-minute mark, and James says that it could be a tough negotiation between the Leafs and Kadri and the likelihood of a contract holdout, in my view, is pretty high.
That's not a real good thing, and it increases the chance that Dave Nonis and the Leafs could sign somebody in the offseason as "Kadri insurance" in case this thing stretches well into October.
Here's what's James had to say:
I think it's going to be a tough negotiation. I think it's probably a negotiation that runs right up, probably runs right up to training camp. I'd be surprised if they can get a deal done really easily, because I think Kadri's side is going to want a big contract after he's been earning AHL money for a long time. The Leafs are going to be very very wary that the Kadri we saw over the last 15 or 20 games of the season is the one that they're going to get.
So I think Dave Nonis is going to be pretty cautious to overpay this guy.
I don't disagree with him in the slightest. Kadri is going to look at a few long second contracts (Jordan Eberle, for instance) while the Leafs will want a bridge deal, one that looks more like P.K. Subban's contract. In case you've forgotten, Eberle was signed to a six-year, $36-million deal last summer and Subban held out into the season and settled for a two-year, $5.75-million deal.
There are few players that you open up the chequebook to for their second contract, I've come to realize. I wouldn't for Eberle or Kadri, but I would for Subban, a player whose underlying numbers as a young defenceman were unparalleled after his brilliant 2012 and 2011 campaigns on really average Habs groups. The Canadiens are going to end up paying a lot more money for him next summer because he'll have possibly one Norris Trophy under his belt and is turning out to be the most popular player on the team.
For Eberle, or Kadri, you have to be a bit more careful. It bears repeating, but the Leafs scored on 14.44% of shots with Kadri on the ice this season. I think Eberle is a pretty good comp, even if they play different positions, because he also had an unsustainable shooting percentage in his contract year. Tyler Dellow at mc79hockey wrote lots of good material about Eberle going into his second contract, focusing on Eberle's high On-Ice Sh%, which was 12.84% in 2012:
The list of guys who managed to put up 10%+ over the past five years at ES, again with a 3000 minute threshold, is even shorter: 13 players long. Sidney Crosby, Alex Tanguay, Marian Gaborik, Steve Stamkos, Bobby Ryan, JP Dumont, Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Sedin, Steve Downie, Nathan Horton, Daniel Sedin and Jason Spezza. Some of those guys aren’t true talent 10% types – Steve Downie strikes me as pretty unlikely to be one.
Obviously, Eberle 'struggled' in 2013, compared to his 2012 numbers. His On-Ice Sh% returned to normal at 8.78%, and Eberle became a worth 63 points over an 82-game season, not the 76-points-in-78-games he was in that 2012 year. It more closely resembled the first year of his career, where he put up 43 points in 69 games.
Nonis, unlike Steve Tambellini, is a bit more conservative when it comes to contracts, which bodes well for the Leafs. Also working in the Leafs' favour is the fact that Kadri, who had 39 points in the team's first 36 games, put up just 9 in his last 18 including playoffs. There's lots of reason for the Leafs to be skeptical on this guy.
This is a litmus test for Nonis. I don't think that Kadri is a player that you can expect to put up a point every second game, but I also don't think that Kadri is a player that you can expect to put up a point a game. The answer, as always when dealing with two extremes, lies somewhere in between. He's probably a 55 to 60-point guy going forward, which still puts him in the conversation among top-line centres in the NHL (and I do think he's the guy the Leafs ought to have on their top line with Phil Kessel, regardless of what Tyler Bozak does).
A bridge contract, two years or so, wherein Kadri is a full-time NHL player for each year is in the interest of the Leafs however. It's important to know exactly what they have before committing to a guy like Kadri, whose best moments in the NHL so far have been on sheltered third lines with a lot of offensive zone faceoffs and a high on-ice shooting percentage that is, unfortunately, unsustainable. Going the Edmonton route and giving him a long contract simply based on 36 games is a recipe for salary cap disaster.
So this will be a fun deal to follow throughout the summer. Of all the RFA deals the Leafs have to sign, this is the one that I think has the best chance to stretch into the season. Also up for new deals are Cody Franson, Carl Gunnarsson, Leo Komarov and Joe Colborne. Depending on your philosophy, Mark Fraser is also an important RFA to sign. His negotiation should go a lot faster.
"I want..." "You'll get [x] and like it!" "Okay, deal."