Friday, 25 March 2016

RFAs, the Series - Episode 1: Nazem Kadri

This kicks off what's going to be a long series covering the Maple Leafs' current restricted free agents (RFAs) and what should be done with them.

The Leafs cleared out a lot of contracts they didn't want anymore in the Grabner and Phaneuf trades. This leaves them with a good amount of room for next season to stay under the 50 contract maximum. As such, a lot of these are going to be suggestions of bringing players back. The question will then be for how much and for how long.

Today we're going to talk about Nazem Kadri, the electric, sandpaper-type center for the Leafs.

The most prominent word that comes to mind for some with Kadri this season would be "disappointing". For me, it's "encouraging" or even "advantageous".

As I covered in part in my fanpost on Pension Plan Puppets, Kadri is having a weird season. The graphs there show his low shooting percentage, and his high possession numbers. The shooting percentage is something we're likely to see rise back to his career average, Here are the relevant images from that post:


The basic conclusion was, that because of this data (really good possession numbers and really low shooting percentage) he'll likely be able to score much better next season. 

I'm glossing over the data analysis because most of it is in the post I mentioned. So go check that out if you want the nitty gritty on what these numbers mean.

Because of all of this, the Leafs have an opportunity to take advantage of Kadri's lack of production to get a good offensive center at a cost-effective price.

So, what?

Good question.

What do you do with that? 

Of course, I want to say he's a really good player who is snake-bitten but there's some legitimate arguments that his career production has never been at top-line level, barring his shortened season (where he had the opposite case of a very high shooting percentage with very low possession numbers). 

The logical thing to do is assume he's somewhere in the middle. An offensive-minded, blood-boiling centreman. 

As much as I love advanced statistics, though, I don't believe they factor into contract negotiations as much as I'd hope. A lot of what a player's value is is perception of impact as opposed to actual impact. As such, I haven't proposed comparables and will, instead, look at each player in as much of a vacuum as I can create.

His current contract is a one-year, $4.1 million deal. I'll propose and break down ideal, realistic, and pessimistic cases for contracts below.

Ideal: 4 years at $5 million AAV

This is where you really take advantage of an opportunity. Argue to him that his production stunk and you don't think he's that good. But you want to give him some comfortability and see if he can flourish without worrying about his contract. Who knows, it might work?

This deal is really nice because it buys 2 years of UFA time where Kadri's negotiating position is much stronger. It also aligns so that the timing isn't lined up with the expiration of Marner or Nylander's contracts. 

Realistic: 1 year at $4.1 million AAV

Bring him back on the exact same deal. It's not going to be feasible to give a young, confident player a pay cut. This is the best non-long-term case. Argue his production sucked so he doesn't deserve a raise, but he's getting an opportunity to prove he deserves one. He realistically doesn't deserve one after this season anyways. This is nice because, again, it's not lined up with Nylander or Marner.

Pessimistic: 2 years at $4.75 million AAV

In this case, Kadri successfully convinces management that he's worth a raise and is part of the future. I'm certain all parties understand it wasn't a good season, but we know his possession numbers are really good, so his agent could utilize that tool to win over management. 

This deal is unfortunate because it brings Kadri right up to UFA expiration. So the contract after this one would be much more expensive. Or, potentially, you lose him when you can't afford him anymore. Certainly pretty far from the ideal case, but not out of the realm of possibilities


There are certainly many opportunities to sign Kadri back to the Leafs. I, personally, would jump all over the opportunity to bring him back, even at the pessimistic contract. As with every post in this series, we'll have to wait and see.

Stay tuned for Episode 2 where we'll talk about Stuart Percy.

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