There won’t be a Nazem Kadri holdout after all.
The 22-year-old centre agreed to a two-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs on the eve of training camp late Tuesday night, signing for $2.9-million a season to avoid missing any time with the club.
The negotiations had started with the two sides far apart, as Kadri’s camp had wanted a longer contract after he had a remarkable breakout season with 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games.
But with Leafs GM Dave Nonis’s failing to budge on a more reasonable “bridge” contract, Kadri ultimately relented and came down into the range where other stars his age like PK Subban, Logan Couture and Matt Duchene have signed on their second contracts in recent years.
“Happy to be with the leafs for the next couple years, looking forward to camp,” Kadri said via his Twitter account shortly after the deal was announced.
One of the main concerns for the Leafs in negotiations was that Kadri’s sample size is incredibly small, as he has played just 99 regular season games in the NHL and averaged only 15.5 minutes ice time a game in that span.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle also used Kadri in a fairly sheltered role in his first full season with the team, playing him primarily against third and fourth lines.
Another issue with Kadri’s production is that it was, in part, driven by being on the ice when the Leafs had an exceptionally high shooting percentage, something that has proven to be difficult to repeat from season to season.
That said, Kadri’s cap hit is reasonable given he’ll fill the second line centre slot, likely between Joffrey Lupul and newcomer David Clarkson, and be at least a 50-point producer.
The only Leafs player remaining unsigned is restricted free agent defenceman Cody Franson, who is not expected to be at the start of training camp on Wednesday.
Even without Franson signed, the Leafs cap situation is rather tight. Depending on who is included on the NHL roster, there appears to be anywhere from $2.7-million to $3.1-million remaining to get Franson under contract, but that is only for a bare bones 21-man roster and leaves very little room in case of injuries.
With Franson likely to receive a one-year deal close to Kadri’s in terms of annual value, it’s believed Nonis will need to make a trade to create some wiggle room under the cap before the season opens on Oct. 1 in Montreal.
Toronto has a logjam specifically on defence, where there will be a camp battle for the bottom two or three spots and players on one-way contracts likely winding up in the minors or dealt away in the coming weeks.