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Where Does Nazem Kadri Fit In The Toronto Maple Leafs’ Future?

Mar 9, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) and goaltender Garret Sparks (31) celebrate a win over the New York Islanders at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated New York 4-3 in an overtime shoot out. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the Toronto Maple Leafs lack of success, Nazem Kadri has stepped up in a big way and is a restricted free agent at the end of the NHL season.

Nazem Kadri‘s future with the Toronto Maple Leafs will be a growing concern as the season comes to a close. After signing a one-year deal in 2015, he will be a restricted free agent at the end of the year. Kadri has had plenty of opportunities to be a top-line center this season and embraced the role, performing well.

Drafted seventh overall in the 2009 entry draft, Kadri has taken off over the last four seasons. He spent his first few pro campaigns in the AHL to gain some much-needed seasoning and found success with the Toronto Marlies. He became a primary contributor in the AHL and has grown into a major part of the Maple Leafs roster since 2012-13. 

Without Phil Kessel, Kadri seamlessly took over for Tyler Bozak on the top line and has now developed some good chemistry with Leo Komarov. Taking on a number-one center role for most of the season, Kadri is becoming a more complete player and is creating offensive chances with the Maple Leafs’ youth. 

Nikita Soshnikov has been in the Toronto spotlight lately and Kadri has been a major piece in his development. Most of his early success has come from playing alongside Kadri and Komarov on the first line. The Maple Leafs have nothing to play for this season, and their young players are getting a look in the NHL. Kadri has been helping them get acclimated to the NHL level and has taken his game to new heights in the process. 

A major criticism surrounding Kadri this season has been his shooting volume. However, the advanced stats suggest only good things have come from keeping the puck in the offensive zone. With a Corsi % of 59.5 and a Fenwick % of 58.6, Kadri has maintained career-bests in both categories and could pass his career-high of 20 goals this season. He has 229 shots on net and owns an ugly 5.2 shooting percentage. Even with a questionable success rate, the overall production from shooting more has improved his individual impact over 60 minutes. 

Feb 6, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem  Kadri (43) shoots the puck in the first pepriod against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

He has maintained a 1.9 points per game pace while shooting an average of 11.5 shots. More importantly, his 1.3 assists per game are better than last year, and his 0.6 goals over 60 minutes are only 0.2 worse. His best season overall was during the lockout year, but his numbers against the best players in the league suggest Kadri is growing into the total package this season.

The important takeaway from this year is Kadri has developed into a much-improved two-way player. His minus-13 rating against top-end NHL talent is actually on par with his past seasons, and he is averaging a career-high 18:25 minutes per game versus last season’s 17:36. Not only is he playing almost a minute more per game, but he is also showing stronger numbers at both ends of the ice. 

Though a contract has not been discussed, Kadri’s role on Babcock’s Maple Leafs suggest there is a clear future for him in Toronto.

Comparing his numbers over the last few seasons sheds some light on his development, but the 25-year-old will be looking for something long-term after two relatively short commitments from the Maple Leafs. 

Not to mention more money, too. 

Kadri’s Career Contracts

2009-10 - Entry Level Contractfour years long including slide, AVG $1,720,000  
2013-14 - two-year contractCap hit - $2,900,000/year
2015-16 - one-year contractCap hit - $4,100,000/year

While an increase in terms seems valid, a large increase in money is a different story. As it stands, Kadri would have a hard time getting anything higher than five million per season, but he is showing the potential of a high-end player. 

His offensive output has to be more efficient, but Kadri is now playing against the NHL’s best players and is getting more comfortable with each game. The quality of teammates should only get better, which will help his average numbers moving forward. 

Defensively, Kadri has been impressive, given the current state of the Maple Leafs, and could argue for a much higher price in a couple years. 

With that said, Kadri has certainly earned a pay increase for the next few seasons but should consider another two-to-three-year deal. He will be just 28 years old at the end of a three-year contract and could sign a long-term deal once his role is confirmed. If he turns out to be a much better center, especially offensively, he could argue for top-tier money. 

Kadri has been good as the Maple Leafs’ first line center and could make for a very good second line center on a playoff-bound team. While his role will depend on his production, Kadri has a good chance of being a major part of the franchise moving forward.

Edited by John Ray, Ben Moore.

On which junior team did Nazem Kadri make a name for himself?
Created 3/13/16
  1. London Knights
  2. Guelph Storm
  3. Oshawa General
  4. Windsor Spitfires

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