Nazem Kadri joined TSN Overdrive on Wednesday evening, discussing his time in Toronto, the trade to Colorado, and his best memories as a Leaf.
You’re a Colorado Avalanche. Has that kind of sunk in yet?
Kadri: Definitely sounds weird for sure, but something I’m going to have to get used to.
If you got a chance to meet with Kawhi Leonard this afternoon, would you campaign for him to sign with the Raptors or would you campaign for him to sign with the Denver Nuggets?
Kadri: That’s a tricky question. At this point, I enjoyed watching Kawhi so much, I’d probably try to recruit him to the Nuggets, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen, so I am hoping for the best for the Raps.
If you are talking to Kawhi, you’ve been here ten years. You’ve seen the team go through some struggles. You have grown and matured and turned into a man here. What are some of the good things about playing in Toronto and what are some of the tougher parts of playing in Toronto as a star athlete?
Kadri: There are pros and cons to every situation, but Toronto obviously has a great fan base with well-educated and fun fans to be around. It’s a great city and fun sports town. They support their athletes and their teams. The perks around the city aren’t too bad, either.
That being said, some of the cons — obviously, it’s a high-pressure situation. You’re under the microscope. Privacy is limited. Honestly, I was willing to sacrifice all of that just to play in a great market and an A1-class organization.
You channeled that celebrity and popularity. Leafs fans loved the way you played. Your journey as a seventh overall pick and a Team Canada player and a guy who finally came up and made a big impact — we all remember Don Cherry bringing you on the show. Did playing in a city like Toronto and what it represents kind of boost your game and motivate you that much more?
Kadri: I think it did. It takes a special type of player to play in a market like Toronto and succeed in a market like Toronto. I was able to kind of put the distractions aside and focus on what I really had to do. I am not saying it was all rainbows and butterflies all the time. There were some hard times where you had some self-doubt and had to battle through adversity, but I was always pretty mentally tough and able to just move forward.
You had a bit of an idea that a trade might be coming. You had been talking to the organization previously to the trade to Colorado. What have the last few days been like on a personal level with your emotions and your family and your parents? You took great pride in representing the Toronto Maple Leafs and wearing that jersey. What is it like knowing that is not going to happen anymore?
Kadri: It’s… It’s hard. It was an emotional time. The last few days have been a little overwhelming. I had only been traded once before in my entire career and that was in junior. I was being traded to my hometown team, so it didn’t even feel like a trade. It was something that was out of my comfort zone, but that being said, moving on to an organization like Colorado and seeing their future and seeing the players I could be paired up with, it is never going to be easy, but it certainly makes it easier.
When Tavares signed here last summer, did you think this could be a possibility at some point?
Kadri: Being here 10 years, it’s not the first time I’d heard my name come up in trade talks. I never really let that bother me. I kind of just tried to brush it aside anytime I heard something like that. But I started to get the notion it might become serious in the last week or two, so I tried to just mentally prepare myself. Emotionally, my heart is in Toronto. I have been here for so long that it’s hard to say goodbye. But I am being put in a fortunate situation. Joe Sakic and the Avalanche have a great thing going on over there. Hopefully, we’ll see the Buds in the Finals.
Just walk us through the logistics. You had a ten team no-trade list and a widely rumoured deal with Calgary and whether that went through or not. When do you put in your list of ten teams you don’t want to be traded to? Is that done in the Fall? Does the team ask you once they start entertaining the offers? How do you exercise that right?
Kadri: You just try to take as much time as you need and basically feel out the signings. It is hard with the UFA and RFA situation to ballpark the salary cap. You do the best you can. You try to submit your list every year before July 1st. You really try to strategize to give yourself the best opportunity if you decide to move on or to maybe make it as difficult as possible to be moved because ultimately this is the place I wanted to stay.
Like I said, I submitted my list. Colorado was a place I could definitely see myself in. I am excited for the future.
Joe Sakic was asked about your history here in Toronto and your rap sheet, if we can call it that, with the suspensions the last two Springs against Boston. He had a pretty good line: “As long as we don’t play Boston, we’ll be fine in the playoffs.” What was it about the Bruins? Was it them in particular with the history? Take us through the suspensions and how it got to that point.
Kadri: You guys know what type of player I am. I have my heart on my sleeve and I am a heart and soul guy. I play hard and I play on the edge. I play with a lot of passion and emotion. Sometimes, that can get the best of you. I like to stand up for teammates and I would do anything for my team. Looking back on it, obviously, I wish it could’ve gone a lot different. I did feel like I had a serious impact in that series prior to what happened. It is just one of those things where you get too passionate and I wanted to protect my teammates and stand up for them. It just was an unfortunate situation, but I don’t think that had anything to do with my future in Toronto.
Now that you are heading down to Colorado after a decade here, what are your reflective moments? What do you take away from your time as a Maple Leaf?
Kadri: You guys might be on the phone for a while if I get into that. Like you said, it is a decade. It is a long time. Toronto is always going to be somewhere that is home for me and close to my heart. Time goes on and this is a sport where business comes before that sort of thing. I understand. There are no hard feelings. But just watching the team evolve and being on it for years, with the players coming in and out and the managers and coaches, where we were in the cellar to where we are now… I think it is pretty remarkable. All the outdoor games and the playoff series. It is endless good memories and something I am always going to cherish.
How difficult was it being bumped down the roster with the addition of John Tavares and how excited are you now to go to Colorado, where you are very likely to be back as a top-two centerman playing the quality of ice time you had seen in the previous couple of years?
Kadri: Definitely. I think that’s where I belong and where most people think I belong. They did what they have to do. If a player like JT was on the market and you have the ability to acquire a talent like that, that’s kind of a no-brainer. I’ve got no hard feelings. JT is my guy. I wish him and the team the best of success and I am always going to be watching and rooting for him. At the end of the day, if you don’t win, things have to change. They definitely did.
You guys are going to be rolling through Toronto pretty early in the season. Do you know the day? You must know the day.
Kadri: December 4th!
If you could pick one to get a huge reaction out of the crowd — because it’s going to be all about you when you come back here —would you rather score a goal that night or throw a monster hit mid-ice?
Kadri: That’s a tough one. It depends on who I am lining up. If it’s like Mitch coming through the middle or something? I am definitely going to try to give him a little shoulder. But I’ll definitely take the goals. It’s going to be an emotional time for me to come back. That’s not something I have experienced a lot in my career, but this is new territory for me. Like I said, I am always one to adapt and adjust to new situations. This is just another one of those things.