Nazem Kadri might as well bang his head against a wall.
Seriously. Whoever is giving this kid advice needs to impound his iPhone or close his Twitter account. Better yet, one of his representatives at Siskinds Sports Management might want to run some public interference for their client.
Despite his disappearance in the hurly-burly of last season’s first-round playoff collapse against the Boston Bruins, it would take a serious pessimist to not view Kadri’s contributions during the abbreviated 2013 regular season as a glass more than half full. (Trust me on the pessimism thing.)
Kadri, whose personality arrived in the NHL roughly 30 seconds after the Toronto Maple Leafs made him the seventh pick overall in 2009, scored 18 goals and 26 assists, placing him second on the team in scoring and plus-minus (plus-15). Just as Kadri’s mouth sometimes freelanced its way through his early pro seasons, so, too, did he exhibit on-ice freelancing tendencies.
It angered head coach Randy Carlyle, at times, but it seemed to be good fun in a precocious-kid-grates-on-teacher kind of way; more ditzy than deadly.
The truth is, even after using compliance buyouts, the Leafs’ biological payroll clock seems screwed up. Veteran defenceman Dion Phaneuf and scoring winger Phil Kessel can both achieve unrestricted free agency at the end of next season, and while the salary cap will go up for 2014-15, the genius thing to do is stagger the due date of deals that need to be renegotiated or extended.
And now along comes Kadri, who is under the mistaken impression that because the 22-year-old centre feels he was screwed around by the organization, it’s time to make it all back. At least, that’s the way it’s been allowed to be portrayed in the media.
If Kadri isn’t taking to Twitter to “correct” information being dispensed by people who cover the team on a daily basis, or insiders with solid track records (such as TSN’s Bob McKenzie), he’s standing in front of microphones and cameras and breaking what at one-point was a self-imposed embargo.
The Maple Leafs would be guilty of stupidity if they were they not leaking details of negotiations because, well, that’s the way these things go. It’s all about public positioning.
Kadri has fussed about the inaccuracy of reports he wants John Tavares money (six years, $33-million U.S.) but even if those figures are skewed a bit, the mathematics of Kadri’s negotiations are fairly easy to figure out.
The Maple Leafs have $4,895,833 left under the salary cap (source: Capgeek.com) to pay restricted free agents Kadri and blueliner Cody Franson. The Leafs would like Kadri to sign for as close as possible to P.K. Subban money (sign for two years, $5.75-million prior to 2013 season) on the shortest term possible; Kadri’s agents will ask for the moon plus one, because that’s what agents do.
Best-case scenario? This gets done by Wednesday’s start of training camp.
Worst-case? Kadri misses a couple of games before giving in.
The most maddening aspect about this is it is all so predictable to fans, media management and most certainly his teammates, yet Kadri’s acting as if nobody told him about it.
Brian MacDonald, Kadri’s agent, declined an e-mail request for an interview, saying: “At this time, I am not prepared to talk publicly about negotiations.”
His client should do the same.
All he has to do is look at the initial messages coming from Phaneuf and Kessel about their status.
From his very first news conference with the Maple Leafs, Kessel has seemed to shrink under the glare, yet, at the recent U.S. Olympic camp, his suggestion that if a new deal isn’t done by the start of the regular season he’d just as soon wait until the end of the season seemed to those in attendance to be more nuanced and measured than threatening.
Phaneuf has been even more sure-footed: Yeah, he’ll negotiate during the regular season.
Kadri needs to take note. He started being a contributor on the ice when he stopped getting ahead of himself, and right now, he needs to do the same off the ice. He can’t push his case, because he has no case to push.