“He says he’s rather disappointed with the lack of progress so far” says the TSN teaser for their video promoting a clip of a Nazem Kadri interview at a golf tournament. It’s rare to have any kind of real hockey news in August, so I have to say my interest was piqued, and I was looking forward to hearing Kadri have some harsh words (although nobody will match Mikhail Grabovski this summer, ever) on the Leafs management for not locking up Kadri yet.
And then you hear Kadri’s interview and you hear, well, this:
You know I know both of us want me in a Maple Leaf blue and white jersey next year so I think we’ll make something happen but as far as that goes right now you know we’re still standing in the same spot.
Whatever happens happens, you know obviously I understand the situation you know how the cap is, you know, so do they. You know, the only thing I can control is how I play and I tried to do my best last year and I worked hard to have the same year as I did.
(In this hit, not counting “umms”, Nazem Kadri dropped an astonishing one “you know” per 15 words)
Those aren’t the words of somebody who is “rather disappointed”. Perhaps “mildly frustrated” is the better term. It’s not like this should come as a surprise. James Mirtle noted in a podcast with Jonas Siegel earlier the summer that the negotiation between Kadri and the Maple Leafs should be long and tough, and I agreed with him 100 per cent.
There’s probably a disconnect with what Kadri wants and what the team is willing to give him. Given his status in Toronto as the team’s second-leading scorer and the highest point total by an Ontario-born player since Matt Stajan in 2009 (since Kadri only had 48 games to work with to score his 44 points, it may be worth noting that the last Ontario-born Leaf to score 75 points in a season was Dave Andreychuk and Doug Gilmour back in 1994) he’s of the belief that he’s worth a long-term contract.
As I mentioned back in May, the Leafs and Dave Nonis are probably more willing to bring him on a bridge deal similar to Matt Duchene or P.K. Subban. Kadri had his breakout year in the last year of his entry-level deal, which means the team would have a pretty easy chance to overpay him and give him a large number of years. Kadri had high individual shooting percentages and on-ice shooting percentages that inflated his point total, so the Leafs have to be wary about what they pay him and for how long. A bridge contract works out for him since he’s at the peak of his value and unlikely to repeat the percentages he had last season.
There’s some frustration around the Internet at how Cody Franson and Kadri are both unsigned. My gripe directed at Nonis is more towards the fact that suddenly the Leafs find themselves in a tight salary cap situation when there was none before, but it’s not at all bugging me the time it’s taking to sign these two. Kadri especially, there’s about a 0.01% chance he doesn’t suit up for the Maple Leafs this season, and with modern training and workout routines, it’s not like he’s missing anything if he skips a few days of training camp.
Teams often take a long time to sign their key RFAs, and since the salary cap doesn’t actually kick in until the season starts, it’s not the cap situation that’s preventing the Leafs from locking down their young forward but the reality when it comes to signing high-profile free agents.
In fact, I think it’s wise of Nonis to take a while with Kadri here. It would have been quite easy to jump off a cliff and give Kadri a dollar figure at a term that Kadri wants, but Nonis was always good with restricted free agents in Vancouver and it’s better for the organization to wear down Kadri at the bargaining table this summer and get him to a two-year deal, then sign him up long-term at such a time when his point totals aren’t purely influenced by percentages.
So let’s not fret about the time it’s taking and let’s not fret about the fact that TSN said that Kadri is disappointed with the progress. If Kadri did say that and that’s the most damning quote, it’s a tame one, and there’s no reason to think that Kadri won’t be with the Maple Leafs on opening day at this point.