Kadri scores

The lack of progress on the Nazem Kadri extension front has been making headlines in Toronto for surprisingly little time, given how important he seems to be to the Maple Leafs’ future plans.

Under normal circumstances — say, if Jonathan Bernier went this deep into the summer without a contract — the local papers would normally be delivered to subscribers’ homes literally on fire. That there has been no such uproar over Kadri’s situation comes as something of a surprise, but perhaps the Toronto media has been so satiated by the team’s acquisition of David Clarkson (the Prize Toronto-Born-And-Bred Free Agent for which they have been ravening for years) and retention of Tyler Bozak (All-Around Good Teammate (Who Also Sucks But Who’s Counting?)) that no one particularly cares that the team probably doesn’t have the cap space to sign Kadri, who you’ll recall was nearly a point-a-game player in the NHL at age 22.

The only thing thing that’s really caused any kind of an uproar in the past few days with relation to the ongoing talks was when he said, “The closer it comes to training camp, it becomes more and more of a distraction. I know I’m being pretty reasonable, taking cap into consideration, when really, that’s not my job.”

Again, under normal circumstances, this phenom high draft pick who was second on the team in scoring in his first full year in the NHL should have everyone in a furor, with talk-radio phone lines jammed by people screaming for Nonis’ head. Instead, Damien Cox of all people(!) is actually pleading for everyone to NOT get worked up, Steve Simmons is saying that Kadri’s confidence in his own abilities is what’s at issue here rather than greed, and Dave Shoalts is praising Nonis for being “patient.” What universe did we wake up in?

While it’s reasonable, on some level, for the Leafs to hold out on giving Kadri the big money and lengthy term he’s reportedly seeking — though he denies it — because, after all, it was a season in which the Leafs were exceptionally lucky, and Kadri was as well (1063 PDO, 16.8 personal shooting percentage). But the real reason the Leafs haven’t locked him up, one suspects, circles back around to the thing he said with respect to the salary cap and the Leafs’ lack of flexibility against it.

Let’s get one thing perfectly straight here: He’s right that worrying about the Leafs’ cap issues are not his job. However, the problem is that it doesn’t seem to be anyone’s job. Nonis entered his first offseason as Leafs GM armed with the confidence instilled in him by a first-round exit and about $25 million in Cap space (having been facilitated by the compliance buyouts of Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski, which rated as competent and complete crap, respectively), and had used 80 percent of it up by the end of July.

Extension for Colton Orr? Check. Trading for Bernier while retaining half a million dollars of Ben Scrivens’ salary, then giving the former an extension not commensurate with his previous performances? Check. Taking on Dave Bolland’s crazy contract after he couldn’t produce points alongside Patrick Kane? Check. Tyler Bozak an absurd if inevitable extension? Check. Re-signing Frazer McLaren for no reason? Check. Clarkson’s head-spinningly bad deal that he’ll be getting killed for a season and a half from now? Check and mate. All made without a single thought to how all these silly transactions might influence his ability to re-sign Kadri and Cody Franson, who himself is a pretty good, pretty young RFA defenseman.

As Chemmy from Pension Plan Puppets (and my partner at The Sleeping Giant) pointed out, it was like paying a lot of money for a vacation and then returning home to remember, “Ah yes, my landlord expects me to pay my rent.” Left unsaid, though, was that this was like taking a luxury vacation in Paterson, New Jersey. Sure, you paid a lot of money, but you certainly didn’t get your money’s worth.

And somehow this is a case of the Leafs being “patient” and wise in expecting Kadri to accept a short-term bridge deal? And not, perhaps, the result of their having spent so cavalierly that they are now forced into frugality when that kind of thing comes off as imprudent? Sure, that makes sense.

There has been some talk about the ways in which teams can be successful, and the ability of GMs to sign players to “hometown discount” deals seems central to that. Kadri is apparently being expected by the Leafs’ front office to do so now, when it has not insisted on anyone else — Bernier or Bozak or Orr or McLaren or Clarkson — to do the same. The fact of the matter is that Kadri doesn’t owe the Maple Leafs anything; that little axiom we hear all the time about hockey being “just a business” when a guy gets traded, that’s a two-way street. Kadri has every right, and in fact a responsibility to himself and whatever dependents he may have at some point in his life, to get as much money as possible every time out. If he wants to take a deal that helps the Leafs’ situation, then that’s his own lookout, and you can’t begrudge him, but if he doesn’t, he’s not being selfish in a way that is bad or wrong. His idea of self-worth, as Simmons notes, is indeed holding up the contract negotiations, because he’s not going to take less than market value (and “You can start with what Adam Henrique just got out of New Jersey and then go up, thanks very much,” is how all future negotiations should begin and end) for the good of a team that wouldn’t make the playoffs even if he improves on last year’s performance, which is unlikely.

This says nothing of the contract status of the forgotten Mr. Franson, most recently involved in trade rumors that would see him shipped, well, somewhere, in favor of added cap flexibility and probably a thinner defense than the Leafs’ already wan blue line. So too has the idea of shopping John-Michael Liles been kicked around, and not unreasonably. But the point is that it didn’t have to be this way. In fact, under any competent general manager, it shouldn’t, and probably wouldn’t.

Kadri is the best Leafs forward prospect to come along in a very long time, and now they’re trying to shortchange him and get him to take a team-friendly deal because they have no idea how to budget. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to Kadri, or me, but then we both seem to be rational human beings and therefore unqualified to be a members of the Maple Leafs front office.

Comments (17)

  1. Calling Jay Feaster….

  2. I’ve been getting myself mentally prepared for the possibility that my team will let Cody Franson walk because we decided to re-up Colton Orr and overpay Bozak by about 3.5 million per and over-invest by about 4 years — (just to cherry-pick a few of Nonis’ head-scratching, cap-eroding moves).

    Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kadri walks too.

    I fucking hate my team.

  3. This was a good read and I agree. “Kadri is the best Leafs forward prospect to come along in a very long time, and now they’re trying to shortchange him and get him to take a team-friendly deal because they have no idea how to budget.” doesn’t make any sense. Even if they get him to a deal, I wonder what this has done to the relationship between the club and Kadri.

  4. Someone who makes sense. Well done….Slow clap.

  5. If Kadri thinks he’s as good as what he says then he should want to sign a short term deal. If he produces in those years then when it’s time for negotiating his next contract he can ask for even more.

    Also Kadri hasn’t really proved anything yet. Yeah he had a good year this year, but it was also a lockout year so he started off strong since he was already playing in the AHL while other players where sitting on there ass or overseas trying not to get hurt.

    Another negative is that Kadri was benched while playing in the AHL during the lockout.

    On a side note: it would be smart for alot of players to sign short term deals because i don’t think players ever sign for less money then tehir previous contract. (i.e contracts are always going up) therefor the more contracts you sign the more money you’ll make.

    • Except, you know, when you blow your knee out and you can’t play anymore and no one owes you a dime.

      Kadri has proven he deserves in the 3.5-4.5 mm range based on his play. The Leafs’ problem isn’t the length of the contract, it’s that they don’t have any cap space. Maybe if they had better managed their cap, this wouldn’t be an issue.

      • @ NKB12

        That’s how I see it too. If I was Kadri I’d want a long term deal. Hockey is a dangerous sport, and every player is one step away from a concussion, puck to the eye, blown out knee injury that ends their career.

    • On the other hand, don’t you want to sign your stud young guys to long-term deals while they’re still relatively cheap? Look at the deal NJ just signed Henrique to. $4M a year for 6 seasons. Has he proven anything outside of his rookie season? Not yet. But if he does, and he’s a solid top-six player for the next six seasons, that contract is a steal. If not, with the cap going up anyways, it’s a small price to pay, and you can always work out a trade.

    • It’s not smart for players to sign a bunch of short term deals except in a few specific situations. The smart thing for players to do is to ensure their future by ensuring that they are set for years to come. The possibility of injury is too great to sign short term contracts and hope that you can sign for more each time the contract is up. Hell, even if you stay healthy, if you have a down year you may wind up having to sign for less.

  6. I agree that Kadri has a right to hold out, and is right to do so. However I would disagree with you that Kadri has a “responsibility” to get as much as he can. Certainly he has a “right”, especially considering the money the team just threw around to put themselves in a position where they can’t give their rising star the deal he deserves. If I was him I’d hold out too. But I don’t agree that he has any responsibility to anyone, including himself, to get the most money. There is nothing “irresponsible” about taking a contract that is tailored to both your needs and the team’s, is there? Is it irresponsible to think about anything other than squeezing every dime out of the person paying you?

  7. After what reportedly happened to Alfy in Ottawa with the whole “We will make it up to you next contract” alleged situation, can’t blame any player for wanting to get paid early in their career and for a long term. When the Leafs made each move this offseason I analysed them as stand alones and was not impressed whatsoever, with the Clarkson and Bozak deals registering as near jaw dropping. When you translate what it means now a few weeks from camp with your best young forward and best young D unsigned with question marks as to where the money to do so will come from, it really paints a picture of incompetence for Nonis. I also agree with Rich, that signing these young guys to more term so that when the cap goes up you are getting a bargain cap hit each year is the way to go, signing 29 year olds to these kind of deals seems asinine. For a team like the Leafs who are not yet contenders, ensuring the young guys who are already producing on your roster now are around in a few years for your window of opportunity is the most important way to build a contender IMO.

  8. Nonis will do something sometime between now and the start of the season and we can talk about it then. Until then, I will continue abiding by the belief that Dave Nonis and his staff have far more intellectual hockey minds than myself or anybody in the fan world or media, and that there is a plan at work here.

    • My sentiments exactly…. I just hope it happens soon, im on the verge of a nervous break down / crippling alcoholism.

  9. PK Subban signed a 2 year bridge deal. PK Subban = more of a proven commodity, at the time of that contract signing, than Kadri is right now.

    PK Subban will now end up costing the Canadiens a lot more money on his impending long term deal because he kicked ass last year (and probably will again this year). Kadri can do the same if he’s as good as he thinks he is.

    Looks to be the only way to keep Kadri & Franson will be:

    A) Dump Liles (unlikely prospect)

    B) Dump Kulemin (more likely…but which hurts the club because he is a solid defensive winger)

  10. I have read so many articles this year by so many people who believe the sky is falling and that it is *impossible* to sign both Kadri and Franson. This is ridiculous and comes from people who clearly have no clue how contract negotiations work. Let me explain:

    Nonis and co. clearly decided a long time ago that they were not interested in signing Kadri or Franson to long term deals this year and spent accordingly. This is logical, since both players have never before had seasons like they did last year.

    Both players can kick and scream all they want but they have no right to a long term deal and neither will get one this year. Thats the way the CBA works.

    With Franson, only a one year deal makes sense for the team. A 2 year deal takes him to UFA. A 3+ year deal buys out his UFA years, which Franson rightly values a $4M+ per year. For next year’s salary alone – if you look at the comparables, $2.5-$2.7 is the right number and the number that an arbitrator would land at. Even looking at long term deals, $2.5-$2.7 is the right number – Slava Voynov (who played 4 minutes per game more than Franson) is earning $2.7 in the first year of his new deal.

    With Kadri, people seem to not understand that the players value arb-eligible years more than pre-arb eligible years (and both significantly less than UFA years). Kadri is arb-eligible next year. Once again, a one year deal makes sense because Kadri’s camp and the Leafs camp have vastly different views at what the remaining years are worth.

    What is Kadri worth next year? Duchene got 3.25 in year one of his deal. That is the high end. But the Leafs can point out that: a) Duchene is a higher draft pick (arbitrators take this into account); b) Duchene had three seasons in the NHL, Kadri has had one; c) Duchene had a higher ppg when he signed his contract than Kadri does now; and d) Duchene signed his deal when the cap was at $70M, not $64M. Kadri’s only argument is that he had a better platform year. If this was an arbitration, undoubtedly Kadri would get less than Duchene.

    Lets look at Henrique, since Lambert relies on him. I can’t state this emphatically enough: Henrique got $4M ON AVERAGE buying out UFA years and arbitration years. What is Henrique making next year in the first year of his deal? $2M. That is the comparable for Kadri.

    Kadri’s comparables show he is worth $2.5-$3.0M next year. That part is inarguable. What he is worth in years 2-6 is less clear and the Leafs and Kadri likely have different opinions. But it doesn’t matter, because the Leafs have decided they aren’t ready to commit to Kadri long term, which: a) is logical; and b) is their right under the CBA.

    So both players will get one year deals that fit under the cap (with a 21-22 man roster that doesn’t include Holzer and Smith). Then next year, when the cap goes up by $5-6M, the $2.5M in dead cap space comes off the books and most likely Liles has been traded, Kadri can get his $5-6M year and Franson can get his $4M per year contract (if they produce again this year).

    I don’t agree with all the moves Nonis has made, but his treatment of Kadri and Franson is the logical and correct move.

  11. Great post. Fickle fans have short memories. Kadri has put up points, under the radar, not completely empty points, but his value was more closely measurable by using his virtually non-existent role in the Playoffs. Were talking here about a kid only one year removed from telling the media at large he was busting ass with Gary Roberts, only to show up to camp, again, fat and weak with rumours he quit after only a few days. Not exactly the behaviour you drop 5 million a year on for the next 5 years.

    Nobody is denying Nazem Kadri has all the talent in the world, but honestly, his maturity is still at ground zero, his interviews this summer have been embarrassing , and have done more to seal his fate than his success on the ice last year. Grow up, sign a bridge and prove you know how to act like a man Nazem.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *