The Maple Leafs have re-signed RFA Nazem Kadri to a one-year contract extension worth $4.1 million.
It is a 25% raise ($1 million) over Kadri’s $3.1 million salary in 2014-15. He’s still a notch below Tyler Bozak’s $4.2 million, but Bozak’s current contract was signed as a UFA.
The thinking from Kadri’s party is that a modest raise on a show-me contract is the best route to go, in hopes of atoning for a season that wasn’t what he wanted in terms of production (39 points in 73 games) and certainly not a year to write home about off the ice, including a team-imposed suspension for one game that was later increased to three games by Brendan Shanahan (official reason being Kadri was late for a team meeting). Kadri was also suspended by the League for four games for a head shot on Matt Fraser in a March visit to Edmonton.
Instead, Kadri will attempt to cash in next year from a stronger bargaining position. He will still be an RFA in one year’s time, and will again have arbitration rights (Kadri had the option of filing for arbitration by today’s deadline, but must have felt he was better off taking the $1 million raise and avoiding the whole ugly process).
Important note: Nazem Kadri is RFA in 2016-17 and 17-18 due to his late date of birth for signing purposes. #leafs
— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) July 5, 2015
Kadri will be 25 by the time the new season starts, and provided the Maple Leafs move out Tyler Bozak — or at least provided Mike Babcock tries a new approach now that Phil Kessel is out of the picture, with Kadri leading the way down the middle — should be given a chance to run with the 1C role in what we will be a make or break season. He should get a chance to run the first unit powerplay with Kessel no longer the focal point, as well.
For all those reasons, the Leafs should have a much better idea of where things are at with Kadri this time next summer, and all options will be on the table with the team still holding his rights. Could they have bought a UFA year or two at a discounted rate, knowing Kadri’s bargaining power is a little weaker than it perhaps could be? Maybe, but the Leafs look like they want to see some growth in maturity and a rebound from last season under new head coach Mike Babcock before making a long-term commitment.
Kadri was again the Leafs‘ leading possession driving forward with a +3.9 Corsi For% relative to his teammates, and he was second on the team behind Leo Komarov (first among Leaf centers) in even strength points per 60 minutes (1.65 compared to Bozak’s 1.23, while Peter Holland was at 1.64 EVS pts/60). He played 17:36 a game (compared to Bozak’s 19:06) with a mishmash of wingers, including Daniel Winnik, Joffrey Lupul, Mike Santorelli, Richard Panik, and Joakim Lindstrom. He played 2:28 a game on the powerplay (compared to Bozak’s 3:31). Will this be the year he leads the Leafs‘ centers in time on ice (powerplay and even strength)? The rate stats favor Kadri, but don’t account for the difference in playing the biggest minutes in the toughest matchups, and three straight head coaches have played Bozak ahead of him, for the most part. The dynamic should change with Phil Kessel traded, given the pair’s perceived chemistry during Kessel’s time in Toronto, but it will be fascinating to see how Mike Babcock manages the center situation if Bozak is still around.