Two Days Until Camp Opens…

Two Days Until Camp Opens…

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I’ve become known as a bit of a Kadri sympathizer in comment section debates on the Nazem Kadri contract negotiation. I’ll make this clear: I do not blame Dave Nonis and Claude Loiselle for the essence of what they’re trying to accomplish with the negotiation. Kadri’s situation is far from unique when it comes to high profile RFAs, both past (see below) and present (Stepan, Pietrangelo).

What bothers me is the media offensive against Kadri via various insiders and one in particular. It has been the player who so many fans have been quick to jump on and advise to “shut up.” I think that advice would be more apropos for the team than the player, based on what I’m seeing and hearing. Both of Kadri’s tweets have been on the defensive, and I do not believe Kadri is expecting a long term deal at the figures reported.

Consider these figures instead:

Player
Contract AAV
Contract Length
Age
Production
Games
PPG
Date Signed
Cap Ceiling
Matt Duchene$3.5 million2 years21150 pts2190.68June 23rd, 2012$70.2 million
James Neal$2.875 million2 years2392 pts1550.59Sept. 16th, 2010$59.4 million
Logan Couture$2.875 million2 years2165 pts1040.63August 26th, 2011$70.2 million
Tyler Ennis$2.812 million2 years2183 pts1400.59Sept. 15th, 2012$70.2 million
Nazem Kadri$2.9 million2 years2263 pts990.64Sept. 10th, 2013$64.2 million

Management’s perspective:

Both Couture and Duchene had their contracts extended after their first season of a two-year bridge deal, receiving long term deals worth $6 million AAV. This is the goal Kadri should be aiming for. In the interim, his numbers and sample size stack up closer to Couture and Ennis’ than Duchene’s. His sample size is the smallest of these six players. The team is working with a 9% reduction on the cap, as well.

Kadri’s perspective:

Kadri’s camp probably wants something closer to Duchene’s bridge contract for a few reasons. 1) He may feel his opportunity to build a bigger body of work was delayed due to a coach who didn’t like him and treated him unfairly; 2) He was on a 75-point pace last season and was deprived of a full season by the lockout, which was out of his control; 3) He’s seeing overpayments all around him in Toronto, starting first and foremost with a fellow RFA in goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who has has only started 54 games by the age 25 and received $2.9 million for the next two seasons.

 

With 3) especially, Kadri would have a point. The team went and acquired a player more for desire than need and it has put them in a tight cap situation. It’s hard for management to take the line of “potential is great, but it’s about experience and what you’ve proven” if they just handed $2.9 million to a 25-year-old RFA of 62 games; this despite having Reimer in net and before getting a player (Kadri) signed who contributed in a big way to the team’s first playoff appearance in nine years. If the team wants to talk about the 48-game sample size with Kadri, it should be wary of sample sizes and experience vs. potential when it comes to Bernier, as well. Bernier may have been exposed to an offer sheet, but so is Kadri, and the fact that the team felt it needed to lock down Bernier because they traded assets for him isn’t really Kadri’s concern.

It’s hard to argue a little below $3 million is unreasonable for Kadri if we’re going by recent comparables. It’s also hard to argue Kadri doesn’t have the right to feel a little boned based on the club’s actions earlier in the summer.

Let’s continue to hope this deal gets done before it affects Kadri’s ability to come in and have a strong camp, a scenario that could hurt all parties involved.

Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]