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)
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?
The following is a list of Leafs centres not named Nazem Kadri who are signed for next season:
- Tyler Bozak
- Tyler Bozak
- Dave Bolland
- Jay McClement
- Peter Holland
- Are the Maple Leafs OK with this group?
- Who are the replacements if one or more players in this group cannot play?
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 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.