It’s less than a month until training camp opens for the Toronto Maple Leafs, yet a core piece of the team remains unsigned. Unrestricted free agent Nazem Kadri has yet to come to terms on a new contract with the club, and both sides appear to be feeling the pressure.
The 22-year-old Kadri had a breakout season in 2013, notching 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games, good for second on the Leafs behind Phil Kessel. He’s coming off an entry level deal and is looking for a huge raise that management may not be willing to give him, partially due to the fact that the Leafs have about $5 million in cap space to work with for the upcoming season.
However, Leafs GM Dave Nonis seems unconcerned. “There are definitely ways of making it work. That’s our intention.” he said recently. But Kadri’s camp is likely seeking a deal too rich for their blood. Consider that the Leafs resigned Tyler Bozak, who scored 28 points to Kadri’s 44, to a new $4.2 million contract, and you’ll have an idea of what Kadri is likely expecting for compensation. With RFA Cody Franson also still unsigned, it’s a wonder how Nonis is going to be able to do it. One wonders if a trade is in order to be able to fit both Kadri and Franson under the cap, perhaps John-Michael Liles with his $3.875 million cap hit might be on his way out of town.
Whether the Leafs are able to make it happen or not is not really Kadri’s concern, however the young forward says that he’s bent a little in the Leafs direction in order to help the team with the dropping salary cap next year.
“I know I’m being pretty reasonable, taking all that cap into consideration when really, that’s not my job,” he told reporters while working at the team’s practice facility in Missasauga, Ontario on Tuesday. It’s a sign that Kadri is willing to work with the team to get a deal done, but he also hinted at his desperation of the situation when he said, “The closer it comes to training camp, it becomes more and more of a distraction, that said, I’m being more than reasonable. Right now, it’s their decision to make.”
So while contract talks seem to have stalled, Nonis still seems confident they’ll get one of the key pieces of the Leaf’s future under contract. “There have been quiet periods [in the negotiations], but that doesn’t bother me at all,” Nonis said. “That’s par for the course in these types of situations.”
So why then is Kadri still unsigned? Nonis provided a telling clue when he said, “I think there is recalibration that needs to take place on both sides.” Evidently Kadri’s idea of his market value differs vastly from that of Nonis.
All around the league right now there is a financial crunch, as teams struggle to sign all their players and fit under the cap. While there has been more movement this summer in recent years, there’s still a high number of quality free agents waiting for the phone to ring, simply because there isn’t enough money to go around.
In the end, Kadri will likely get signed before the start of the regular season, but I don’t expect it will be to a monster long-term deal that many of his contemporaries are getting. The Leafs simply don’t have the cap space. So expect a short-term bridge deal that probably won’t please either side, as the saga of Nazem Kadri continues in Toronto.
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