The Toronto Maple Leafs are spiraling down the Eastern Conference standings with only two wins in their past 10 games.
The team is in desperate need of a shake-up but don’t have many desirable assets they could trade in order to turn around the recent struggles. However, one move they could make is to attempt to package Nazem Kadri in a deal to upgrade at center.
Moving Kadri would be a delicate situation as the return would have to be an obvious upgrade, but general manager David Nonis wouldn’t be doing his job if he wasn’t considering all possibilities. Kadri has recorded 21 points in 29 games, but 13 of those points came in October as he’s only tallied eight points since Halloween.
Given that the Maple Leafs have been without Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland for basically the past month and a half, this was supposed to be Kadri’s time to prove he’s a legitimate cornerstone of Toronto’s future. Unfortunately, Kadri has failed to rise to the occasion despite demanding a contract that would pay him $6 million per season in the summer before settling on a two-year $5.8 million deal.
With only eight points during the time the Maple Leafs have desperately needed their centers to step up given the injuries, it’s arguable Kadri hasn’t even lived up to the $2.9 million he’s making this year let alone the $6 million he thought he was worth.
The problem with Kadri is he’s a one-dimensional scorer, and if he’s not putting up points then he’s not really helping his team. Bozak and Bolland can help the team in multiple ways whether it’s with their defense or offense, and although they don’t have nearly the type of offensive talent as Kadri does they can still impact a game without finding the back of the net.
Unfortunately, Kadri is proving to be a cocky player who has all the offensive talent in the world while being incapable of playing defense. Basically, he’s turning into Mike Ribeiro 2.0, and no team has ever won with Ribeiro and no team ever will with his one-dimensional game.
Kadri has already proven he can’t play with Toronto’s best player, Phil Kessel, because both need the puck to succeed. Bozak works so well with Kessel because he understands his limitations offensively and chooses to play through Kessel as opposed to trying to be the hero himself. When Kadri plays with Kessel, he often tries to dangle the defense all on his own and loses the puck at the opposition’s blue-line before Kessel has even had an opportunity to have it on his own stick.
Losing the puck at the opposition’s blue-line is a habit Kadri has had since he entered the league, and he still hasn’t learned how to reduce the problematic turnovers. At 23-years-old it’s puzzling how much longer it’ll take Kadri before it sinks in he can’t turn the puck over trying to out deke everybody.
It’s unclear what kind of return a package with Kadri being the main feature could get the Maple Leafs on the trade market. However, given his young age and obvious talent there’s no question somebody would find him attractive. Any deal would have to result in a player Toronto could have on their roster for at least the next five years for the trade to make sense. That way, when Kadri records his Ribeiro-like seasons of 60 points the Maple Leafs can still be happy with what they got back in return for trading the player they drafted seventh overall in 2009.
The sample size might be small, but it’s also been enough to prove Kadri isn’t the type of player teams have success with in the playoffs. Prone to turnovers and brain cramps along with no defensive skills, the Maple Leafs will be better off to try and upgrade via trade before the rest of the league figures out just how one-dimensional Kadri truly is. Yes, he’s still young enough to evolve into more of a two-way player, but his trade value will never be higher than it is right now. Toronto can’t miss out an opportunity to move one of their most valuable assets while it’s still valuable.