The fact that the Toronto Maple Leafs still have not agreed to deals with restricted free agents Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson has certainly been a point of concern among their fans, and there’s no question that with training camps just a couple of weeks away, you’d like them to be locked up as soon as possible.
Part of the holdup could just be an issue of what type of contract each side is hoping to see. We haven’t heard much from either side, and it’s likely just a case of them dragging their feet, with little fear of an offer sheet. Still, the question of what type of deal they should get, Kadri in particular, is an interesting one.
The question is whether or not they want to sign him to a shorter term deal and make him earn that next big contract, or if they want to take advantage of his excellent 2013 campaign and lock him up for the next several years. Both make some sense on certain levels, but with Kadri only having that one really successful season, the former could make more.
After a few years of waiting for the young forward to break out, the Maple Leafs received top notch production from Kadri in 2013. He was among their leaders in offensive production, on a team that has multiple offensive weapons. He finished with 44 points in 48 games, good for second on the team. His 18 goals were tied for no. 2 on the team as well.
There’s no doubt that Kadri has high end offensive skill, but can he carry that type of scoring rate into the next few seasons? As he transitions to center full time, it’ll be interesting to see if he takes a step back at any point. The fact that he has only had that one successful year does make things a bit clouded for him as far as his future is concerned.
Kadri may very well be an upper tier offensive player in this league. But with so little success to back it up at this point, the Leafs should go with the shorter term deal, perhaps two or three years, to allow him to prove his value to the team. Then lock him up on a long term deal, when there will likely be more financial flexibility as well.