Both Nazem Kadri and Richard Panik have earned qualifying offers from the Toronto Maple Leafs, meaning they don’t become unrestricted free agents on July 1st.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) June 29, 2015
This is, for the most part, a very good thing.
On the one side, it’s a relief to see the club extend a QO to Kadri, who was a huge question mark from the middle of the season on. He’s dynamic and powerful on the ice – one of the league’s best open-ice hitters, Kadri’s edgy game and smart offense combine to make him one of the club’s most valuable centres moving forward – but tensions were fairly high by the end of the 2014-2015 campaign and a multi-game suspension period for various disciplinary infractions made Kadri’s future as a Leaf less than clear.
On the other side, though, the club may have been better served in failing to issue Panik a qualifying offer in order to drive his future salary down.
Seventy-six on ice appearances in Toronto last season saw Panik record eleven goals and six assists for a seventeen point season, which he could argue gives him leverage for a higher salary than the team wants to give him. With arbitration rights, there’s always the possibility that Panik could see he holds value at the NHL level and insist upon heading to arbitration. The Slovakian winger could request a higher salary than the $1.1M ‘prove-it’ deal given to David Booth last year, and the team is required to match up to $3M if he elects to head down that path.
What should each skater be paid?
We already know that Jonathan Bernier is undergoing club-elected arbitration with the Leafs, and his end deal could be in the ballpark of $4M – $4.5M (especially in light of a $4.5M deal going to Antti Niemi earlier this morning). That leaves the Leafs with $12M in cap space – so salary, in theory, isn’t too much of an issue unless we’re looking at bridge term.
As mentioned above, Panik should look at accepting a slight uptick on what he received last year, so anywhere from $800,000 – $950,000 would be a fair offer – the Leafs only have to extend a 105% raise from his $735,000 contract last year in the qualifying offer, but there’s always the chance that Panik’s offensive production will earn him a bit more.
As for Kadri, things are tricky.
He’s now a repeat offender for head-hit suspensions, and there’s the multi-game team-elected suspension for sleeping through a team meeting compounded with other unspecified issues. He’s also, as mentioned above, one of their most all around players – and with a number of forwards making more than his 2014-2015 salary of $3.1 M (which would be the minimum for a qualifying offer he could receive) the 24 year old could want to see a big windfall.
Whether of the belief that a player should see diminished salary upticks due to off ice issues or disciplinary actions, though, Kadri is only 24 – what the team needs to consider is that if he improves both on and off the ice, he’ll command a significant raise. Because of that, giving him anything north of $5.5 M AAV runs the risk of demanding an even larger windfall due to ‘maturity’. Whether fair or not, it’s usually reasonable to try and graduate a player’s salary to match his development arc; without that kind of pay distribution, players get overpaid or lost to free agency (where they’re often still overpaid, just by a new team).
Likely, $5 M AAV on a four year extension is fair for Kadri. Upping the term by a year or two and lowering the cap hit to somewhere between the aforementioned $5 M and a more bridge-esque $4.5 M could be what fans end up seeing when Kadri does ink his deal.
Odds and Ends:
Although we already knew this would likely be the case, the Edmonton Oilers failed to qualify recently acquired forward Brad Ross. As for Toronto’s newest face, Martin Marincin, here’s what’s keeping him in Toronto regardlesshttp://dlvr.it/BMfTfF:
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) June 29, 2015