Nazem Kadri has on several occasions over the past couple years expressed his desire to sign a long-term contract extension with the Toronto Maple Leafs to keep him in Southern Ontario for years to come.
Instead, Kadri has signed a one-year contract with the team that he has spent his six-year NHL career with. The centre signed the $4.1 million deal Sunday.
Kadri finished fourth among Leaf players in scoring last season by posting 39 points (18 goals, 21 assists) in 73 regular season games played. The 24-year old has 64 goals and 152 points in 250 career games for the Maple Leafs.
He faces the task of having to prove he is worthy to continue with the organization by not only impressing president Brendan Shanahan, but also new head coach Mike Babcock and his staff. Toronto are undergoing a re-build and the one-year contract can be viewed as a ‘tryout’.
His role in the Leafs lineup for the upcoming season remains to be seen, however, as he spent most of last season as the second line centre. If Tyler Bozak is traded, Kadri could be making the big step-up to the top line.
According to reports, Kadri did not play enough games in his first three seasons in the NHL to have any of them recognized as accrued seasons towards his UFA. He played one game in 2010, appeared in 29 games in 2010-11 and another 21 in 2011-12. A player must play at least 40 games for a season to be counted and he has managed that in just his past three seasons.
That being said, he remains two years away from UFA. This leaves Kadri ineligible to hit free agency until 2018.
It could be now or never for Kadri this season, and if he wants to be rewarded with the long-term contract he is looking for, he will have to leave his mark and earn it with a big year to be a part of the team’s future.