Heading into tonight’s matchup against the Colorado Avalanche, which will be Nazem Kadri’s first playing against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto, it seems prudent to take a look at the trade to see how it’s shaking out early on for both teams.
The Leafs swapped Nazem Kadri and minor-league Swedish defender Calle Rosén to the Colorado Avalanche for both Tyson Barrie and Alexander Kerfoot. The prominent sentiment at the time was that the Leafs won this deal by a healthy margin. It seemed that both teams got something they needed. Generally, though, Toronto came out ahead.
Let’s take a first pass at how this trade worked out for both sides.
Kadri got off to a slow start in Colorado, with no points in his first four games, but has gotten mostly back to normal now. In 26 games, he’s on a 63-point pace for an 82 game season. In his only 82 game year in Toronto, Kadri finished with 61 points, but in each of the other years, he was on pace for somewhere between 45 and 50. So, he’s generally producing at a higher level than he did in Toronto, which is what the Avalanche should have expected.
Kadri is in a top-six role in Colorado that he was never going to get back in Toronto, especially ever since John Tavares and Auston Matthews joined forces to lead the Leafs’ centre group.
Behind Nathan Mackinnon, who has quickly become one of the top stars in the league, Kadri has spent his time with a number of wingers in Colorado already. His usual combination should be Matt Nieto and Joonas Donskoi. However, Kadri has also spent some time with young centre/wingers in Tyson Jost and JT Compher. His normal linemates have stepped up to the first line in the recent absence of two-thirds of their elite first line, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
Tonight, Kadri will be with the gritty small forward Matt Calvert, as well as JT Compher.
Kadri has also been getting some time on the 1st powerplay unit, which has been about as mediocre as Toronto’s own special teams, each producing about 6.6 goals per hour on the advantage, good for 14th and 16th respectively. Kadri himself has seen 7 of his 20 points come on the advantage.
It’s important to mention that one of the best qualities about Kadri is the fact that he comes at a good discount at just $4.5M per year. For good 2nd line centre play, that is a bargain.
Kadri has also been excellent for the Avalanche in the shot attempt metrics — he is rocking a 60% Corsi For percentage (shot attempts for / shot attempts for + shot attempts against) 62% Expected Goals For percentage (same as Corsi, but weighing each shot attempt with how likely it is to be a goal, based on location).
For those unfamiliar with those types of statistics, those numbers are excellent, especially with a 26 game sample size.
Calle Rosén hadn’t played for the Colorado Avalanche until recently when he was called up in the absence of Erik Johnson. Rosen has played 3 games, each with budding young mobile defenseman Samuel Girard, and they’ve generally held their own together.
The fact that the Leafs got two quality NHL players in return for Kadri says a lot about this trade in its early stages. As mentioned above, Colorado got the financial certainty out of this deal, while Toronto took on a bit more uncertainty.
Alex Kerfoot came unsigned as a restricted free agent, and Tyson Barrie has just one year remaining on his deal. Toronto signed Kerfoot for a four-year $3.5M contract, beginning this season. Barrie’s short term remaining compounds the Leafs’ existing defence uncertainty, with Jake Muzzin, Justin Holl and Cody Ceci all being unrestricted free agents, and Travis Dermott being a restricted free agent, at the end of this season.
A nice bonus was that the Avalanche retained 50% of Barrie’s salary, leaving him at just a $2.75M cap hit for Toronto. Having those two players for $6.25M, instead of Kadri for $4.5M, is some pretty shrewd business for a team that is squished against the salary cap in Toronto.
In terms of performance, though, it’s been a rollercoaster for Barrie. He went 16 games without scoring a goal, but now has 3 goals and 12 points from the back end. Kerfoot has just 8 points, and hasn’t tallied a point in 8 games. We should hope for more out of him, but it’s important to note he’s in a smaller role than Kadri, and isn’t getting the offensive tools the Leafs have to offer on his wing very often.
For the almost solely offensive defender in Barrie also, 12 points can certainly be improved upon. Being on the 2nd powerplay unit definitely affected his ability to produce at 5-on-4, but since new head coach Sheldon Keefe moved him up to the top unit his production has seen a sharp increase (5 of his 12 points have come in the last 6 games since Keefe has been head coach)
At 5-on-5, Barrie is normally playing with Jake Muzzin, but occasionally Babcock moves him up with Morgan Rielly when the Leafs really need a goal.
For Kerfoot, he anchors the 3rd line centre position, while tons of moving parts go around him. It started with Ilya Mikheyev and Trevor Moore. Then he stepped up into the 2nd line while Tavares was hurt. Now, Keefe has put his own designs into play with Zach Hyman and Kasperi Kapanen being Kerfoot’s wingers. The 3rd line is almost always in flux, as it’s the opportunity line for those who are coming up from the minors, but also the demotion line for top 6 players that aren’t holding their own in that role.
Overall, it’s hard to say either team won this trade. As it initially looked, they both got players that significantly helped their teams out. Toronto got to fill out more of the roster with a good cost for good players. Colorado got a reliable 2nd line centre that can be a threat when Nathan MacKinnon isn’t on the ice, something they’ve desperately needed since Matt Duchene’s departure.
Usually, the winner of the trade is the team that got the best player, so in this case, you’d have to give the edge to the Avalanche in this deal for bringing in Kadri.
Of course, this is still a very early look into the deal, spurred by the head-to-head clash tonight. The long-term outlook will change a lot depending on whether Rosén becomes a regular player for Colorado, and whether Barrie re-signs with the Leafs this offseason.
Overall, in this snapshot of time, I think this is a very fair trade that has positive outcomes for both teams. For tonight, it’ll be fun to watch Kadri score 4 goals against us in his return, as is tradition.