Determining The Best Number For Kadri And The Leafs

 

Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

In case you had all forgotten, the Leafs have still yet to sign Restricted Free Agent, and second leading scorer Nazem Kadri. With still a month until training camp and two months from the regular season, there’s no need to panic yet…although this is the team that committed long-term to Tyler Bozak, so you never know, they could find a way to mess this up.

With Mikhail Grabovski bought out, Kadri is the Leafs only hope from receiving a positive offensive contribution from the centre position this upcoming season. The Leafs do not have the depth to deal with any kind of Kadri absence. Getting him signed before the season is imperative.

Playing in all 48 games last season Kadri broke out with 44 points, good for 0.91 PPG. While the Leafs could not have been happier with Kadri’s emergence as a legitimate top-6 NHL forward, they are probably less than enthused about having to determine Kadri’s value based on a breakout season that occurred in a lockout shortened season that was a little wonky all around.

When top young players come off of their entry-level deals, there have generally been two types of contracts given out. When the player has come into immediate success and proven himself as a cornerstone, they have been rewarded with a long-term contract. Players that have flashed some success, albeit mixed with inconsistency or some other factor, instead of signing long-term for a lower number, they have signed “bridge contracts” that allow them to try to increase their value over a one or two-year period in order to boost the dollar value of the long-term deal.

To give us a ballpark number on what Kadri’s contract may look like, we’ll take a look at other young players that broke into the league a put up similar numbers at the same age in recent years, and what contracts they signed after doing so.

The Long Term Commitment

John Tavares

Season

Age

GP

G

A

PTS

ATOI

2009-10

19

82

24

30

54

18:00

2010-11

20

79

29

38

67

19:15

2011-12

21

82

31

50

81

20:34

Like Nazem Kadri, Tavares’ game is centred primarily around his offensive contributions. In 2011/2012 (right before signing his current contract) Tavares managed to score 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points in 82 games. His 0.99 PPG is a touch higher than what Kadri managed in his shortened breakout season, but Tavares put up these numbers while receiving 20:34 of ice time per game, compared with Kadri’s 14:10.

The main difference between Tavares and Kadri when it comes to contract negotiations is the sample size of their success. Before signing his 6-year $33 million extension, Tavares had already played 3 full seasons in the NHL, improving each and every season. Due to his pedigree as a first overall pick, and 3 year sample size as an NHL player, the Islanders were comfortable with Tavares’ long term prospects.

With just one (shortened) season of success, it would be foolish of the Leafs to make such a commitment to Kadri (so expect to hear about that big money long-term extension any day now).

The Bridge Contract

Matt Duchene

Season

Age

GP

G

A

PTS

ATOI

2009-10

19

81

24

31

55

17:44

2010-11

20

80

27

40

67

18:57

2011-12

21

58

14

14

28

16:17

Matt Duchene and Nazem Kadri are very different hockey players. As mentioned above Kadri’s game is centred primarily around his offensive talents, while his defensive indifference held him back from being a regular in the Leafs’ lineup until this past season.

Matt Duchene on the other hand came into the league as a well-rounded two-way player. After a very successful first two years in the league, Duchene struggled in his third season. When it came to contract negotiations, this obviously led to hesitance on the part of Colorado to commit long-term at the number that Duchene was asking.

Instead the sides agreed upon a two-year bridge deal, worth $3.5 million per season. After re-establishing his offensive game in the lockout shortened 2013 season, Duchene was awarded with a 5 year $30 million extension.

Like Tavares, Duchene had a much larger sample size before signing his second pro contract than Kadri. Kadri on the other hand put up better offensive numbers in his break out campaign than Duchene did before inking his extension. For this reason, I believe that the short term bridge contract utilized by Duchene and Colorado, would be the best option for both Kadri, and the Leafs.

For Kadri, a two-year deal for between $3.5-$4 million allows him to be paid what he is likely currently worth, while establishing himself as one of the game’s top offensive threats in order to increase his value for when he signs a long-term deal. For the Maple Leafs they give themselves two more seasons to watch Kadri and evaluate what he is truly worth to the team, and if he is in deed a piece they believe is in their long-term future.

Since a bridge contract like Duchene seems like the obvious, and logical thing for the Leafs to do in this situation, look for them to do the complete opposite and somehow make an even bigger mess out of their already dire cap situation!

Topics: Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs

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