Nazem Kadri (Andy Marlin/Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs have inked restricted free agent center Nazem Kadri to a one-year, $4.1 million deal. Kadri scored 18 goals and 39 points in 2014-15 and the 2009 seventh overall pick has amassed 64 goals and 152 points in 250 games.
For Nazem Kadri, the 2015-16 season could be the biggest of his career. If nothing else, the pressure to perform will certainly be there.
Sunday afternoon, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they have signed the 24-year-old center to a one-year, $4.1 million deal that will keep him in blue and white next season. But after a 2014-15 campaign and off-season in which Kadri’s name had been mentioned in trade talks and potential rebuilding of the club, the one-year contract is significant in that it could mean it might be Kadri’s last deal as a Maple Leaf.
Kadri was a restricted free agent heading into this off-season and signing the one-year deal helps the Maple Leafs and their young, potential star center avoid lengthy and possibly tenuous contract talks. It also shows the Maple Leafs are willing to give Kadri at least one more shot at becoming the player Toronto has hoped he would become.
What Kadri will get this upcoming season is a chance to prove he can be a top-line center in the NHL, something he will almost certainly get the chance to be this year under new coach Mike Babcock. At present, down the middle, the Maple Leafs depth chart doesn’t read much better than many of the teams expected to finish in the NHL’s basement: after Kadri, Toronto’s NHL pivots are Tyler Bozak, Peter Holland and Nick Spaling. While a young gun could come out of camp to take a spot, at present it looks like those four will take the NHL jobs.
This past season, Kadri was given the most responsibility of his career, skating more than 17:30 per game and averaging nearly 2:30 per game with the extra man. But after two years of increasing point totals, Kadri’s numbers dropped significantly this past season. In 2012-13, Kadri set a career high of 18 goals and 44 points, which he subsequently broke the following campaign with a 20-goal, 50-point year. In 2014-15, however, Kadri’s numbers slipped to a less-than-expected 18 goals and 39 points. At $4.1 million, the Maple Leafs will be expecting more from Kadri and there's potential for the one-year pact to provide some extra motivation.
Granted, part of Kadri’s slip can be attributed to the fact that he hasn’t exactly been given top-line wingers to play with him. This past season, the two forwards Kadri skated most of his minutes alongside were Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli. While both are better than average possession players, they’re not exactly the Phil Kessels or James van Reimsdyks of the NHL.
Heading into his new contract, Kadri had received a two-year, $5.8 million deal. Kadri will again become a RFA following the 2015-16 season.
Since being drafted seventh overall by the Maple Leafs in the 2009 draft, Kadri has amassed 64 goals and 152 points in 250 games.