Trading Nazem Kadri: What would it mean?

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 5.52.14 PM

Between the NHL Awards, Lebron James opting out of his contract with the Heat, and Suarez biting an Italian guy, Nazem Kadri trade talk still found a way to creep into my Twitter timeline today. The talk ranges from why Kadri is vital for the team to why he’s a useless bum. “He’s way better than Bozak!” “This team is screwed without him!” “He won’t listen to Carlyle.” “Locker room cancer!”

Let’s try to push some of that aside and figure out what a Nazem Kadri trade would mean for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

1. THE VOID (BASICS)

Whenever you trade a player, a draft pick, or even cap room, you are creating a void of some sort. You had something, then you traded that something, and now you lack that something. Ideally, you can replace that something either with something from that very same trade or from within your own organization.

In the case of Nazem Kadri, what is the void that the Maple Leafs would be creating?

Nazem Kadri is a centre, therefore by trading away Kadri, the Leafs would be creating a void at the centre position.

2. THE VOID (SPECIFICS)

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 7.54.58 PM

We’ve established that Nazem Kadri is a centre, and without him, the Leafs will have one fewer centre. Not exactly groundbreaking information, is it?

Let’s get a little more specific. We’ve established the basics of the void. Now we need to take a closer look at what that void really is. Basically – who is Nazem Kadri to the Toronto Maple Leafs?

By the numbers, some basic and some a little newer, here are some important things to note with Nazem Kadri:

  • Kadri has one year remaining on a contract that will pay him $2.9 million against the cap next season.
  • Kadri provided 0.92 points per game in 2012-13 and 0.64 last season for an average of 0.78 points per game. To give you an idea of what 0.78 points per game is, it’s about 64 points in a full 82-game season. If you’re looking for comparables, Brian Little of the Winnipeg Jets scored 64 points in 82 games last season and Ryan O’Reilly scored 64 points in 80 games. Those totals saw Little and O’Reilly finish tied for 32nd in NHL scoring last season.
  • Kadri was second among Maple Leafs with 18 powerplay points this past season.
  • Kadri was fifth in average even strength time on ice per game among Maple Leafs forwards this past season (14:51).
  • Kadri was fourth in average powerplay time on ice per game among Maple Leafs forwards this past season (2:22).
  • Kadri was fifth in average total time on ice per game among Maple Leafs forwards this past season (17:23).
  • Kadri has had the team’s best penalty differential for two straight seasons. In 2012-13 he drew 40 penalties and took just 10 for a penalty differential of +30. This past season he drew 43 penalties and took 24 for a penalty differential of +19.
  • Kadri was the Leafs’ top possession forward and second best possession player overall this past season with a CF% of 45.3%

Now let’s make a couple of things very clear… 

First of all, this list is just a pile of numbers. Does this list include every number? No. Does it tell you the full story? No. Does it help tell the story? Yes. 

Next, I don’t want this to sound like a pitch for the Leafs to keep Kadri or sound like I’m calling the Leafs stupid if they trade him. That’s wrong. The Leafs can trade whoever they want to. Hell, the Leafs could trade Phil Kessel and Morgan Rielly in the same trade for all I care as long as the return is fair. 

In Nazem Kadri’s case, losing him means losing a centre who can score points at a decent click, play on his team’s first or second line, play on his team’s first or second powerplay, and draw more penalties than he takes. Can the Leafs fill that void they’re creating?

This brings us to number three.

3. HOW DO YOU FILL THE VOID?

Screen shot 2014-06-24 at 7.57.39 PM

The following is a list of Leafs centres not named Nazem Kadri who are signed for next season:

  • Tyler Bozak
Now obviously that’s not a very long list. Let’s go ahead and assume that the Leafs re-sign restricted free agent Peter Holland and unrestricted free agents Dave Bolland and Jay McClement. This means that the Leafs go into next season with their top four centres being:

  • Tyler Bozak
  • Dave Bolland
  • Jay McClement
  • Peter Holland
You can put those names in whatever order you like. They’re still the Leafs’ top four centres. Two questions worth asking:

  • Are the Maple Leafs OK with this group? 
  • Who are the replacements if one or more players in this group cannot play?
First, let’s look within the Leafs organization. Can James van Riemsdyk play centre? Yes, but based on this past season’s experiment it’s not a very ideal situation. Can Nikolai Kulemin play centre? Yes, but that’s assuming he is even re-signed as he is a UFA. Can Greg McKegg play centre? Yes, but he only has one career NHL game under his belt. Can Frederik Gauthier play centre? Yes, but he has no NHL experience and just finished playing junior.

So should the Leafs choose to trade Kadri, they need to either be very confident that one or more of the players I just mentioned or somebody else within the Leafs organization can succeed at centre, or they need to acquire a centre.

How do they acquire a centre? There are plenty of options.

  • The Leafs could draft him. Sam Reinhart, Leon Draisaitl, and William Nylander, are some of the higher-ranked centres in this year’s draft, for example.
  • Trade for him. Surely there are centres available for the right price. The Leafs have some desirable pieces they could move. Perhaps Jake Gardiner?
  • Sign him. The Leafs can sign an unrestricted free agent like Paul Stastny or give an offer sheet to a restricted free agent like Ryan O’Reilly.
The Leafs have some options if they choose to trade Kadri. Whether they’re able to make something of those options is another story.

SO WHAT?

The reality of the matter is that this information doesn’t mean a whole lot yet because as of the time I’m writing this, Nazem Kadri is still a Toronto Maple Leaf.

If the Leafs trade Kadri, or anybody for that matter, they need to have a plan for how to replace them. It’s just my opinion, but I don’t think that the Leafs have an immediate replacement for Kadri in their organization today even if they re-signed all their free agent centres. That means they need to trade for somebody, sign somebody, and/or draft somebody who can replace Kadri, or better yet, improve on him.

If that’s the path the Leafs choose to go down then I’m very curious to see how they come out on top. My opinion? I’d be very surprised to see a scenario in which the Leafs both lose Nazem Kadri and gain a better record.

  • To me The Leafs Trading Kadri would be stupid. He’s only 23 yrs old and he has loads of talent. My question is why would they trade him it’s just nuts they think Bozak is an untouchable when Kadri is way better than Bozak

  • Thanks for this. It’s nice to see someone actually go about this issue logically and with facts instead of just throwing random, biased opinions out there.

    I personally would like to see Kadri stay on the Leafs. Aside from his abilities as a player (which I truly believe are going to get better and better as he grows), he is happy here and has good camaraderie with the other players. He’s good for team spirit. Sometimes it’s not always just about the numbers but how a player affects the mentalities of the other players, which in turn can affect playing ability.

    When Kadri is good he`s GREAT, he has some issues with consistency but again, he`s young and given the chance I think he can really be a driving force for this team.

    Just my two cents.

  • Nate

    I love watching Kadri as a player. Like Sharon said, when he is good, he is GREAT. When he is lighting it up on home ice, I love seeing the huge amounts of happiness on his face – he seems to bring a lot of excitement to the game. I don’t think it’s wise to trade him at this time, unless we get a really good replacement. Knowing Leafs’ management tho….just my $0.02

  • STAN

    I would like to see what Peter Holland can do as the second line center with Kadri moving over to the wing.

    Holland showed great promise IMO when he had a chance last year with the Leafs and scored almost every game with the Marlies during the playoffs. Holland is mis cast as a forth line center.

    There is also an advantage to having 2 natural centers on a line for example taking faceoffs.

    There is no doubt that Kadri has many great years ahead of him in the NHL and I’m tired of seeing former Leaf draft picks like Brad Boyes, Alex Steen and T. Rask have great careers on other teams.

    The only trade worth making for Kadri is if the Leafs have a chance to move up to take Ekblad, but I see this a very very remote possibility as no matter how much the media says the 1st pick is in play, Florida would be stupid to move it.

  • Nate

    If you trade kadri in a package how many good centre’s are in their prime or approaching it. That’s speaking only if they are people available. Is there anyway of improving their team with a trade, possible is it likely probably not. People need to remember in his 2nd full NHL season he got 50 points. How many centre’s can do that now. He is only getting better so to trade him now is probably a bad idea.

  • Nate

    Trading Kadri would be very Leafy – trade low (Steen, Rask, Boyes, Colborne) and buy high. Literally…buy while you are high – Toskala, Raycroft, Blake, Finger, Clarkson.

  • STAN

    Not only is Kadri the Leafs most naturally talented centre, he’s one of the most literate and well spoken. I think he could be a Captain. A REAL Captain who can enunciate and articulate team issues. Has anyone noticed that he doesn’t just grunt and spill out cliches? (Phaneuf).

    At $2.9 million it’s a steal for this coming season. Just check out how many far less talented forwards are making twice that amount.

    But, if his track record is any indication Nonis will probably trade him and then dump a truckload of cash on Paul Stastny, who has already been grossly overpaid for and whose best years are behind him.

  • STAN

    Slightly off topic, why the heck are the leafs even considering trading Gardiner? I know that he “hasn’t played that great”, but lets be honest…he’s going to be 24 on opening day, and d-men take longer to develop. And don’t even get me started on trading away kadri. As if the leafs didn’t have a big enough hole down the middle. To be honest, what little faith i had in this team disintegrated after I heard they had re-signed Carlyle, and at this point, it wouldn’t surprise me if at this time next year everyone but the supposed “untouchables” were gone or on the block. This team is in shambles.