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Monday, July 4, 2022

Leafs mailbag: Dollar days are coming for Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri appears to be the people’s favourite around these parts, and I’m guessing readers of the Mailbag will be happy to see the former Maple Leafs star raise the Stanley Cup at some point over the next few days.

The legend of Kadri is only growing. Skill and speed to burn. But it’s his heart and competitive fire — something lacking in the current Leafs lineup — that can’t really be measured. (Unless you count games lost due to suspensions, but I digress.)

Of all the Leafs who have gone on to success elsewhere in recent years, he’s the one the fan base misses the most. He put up with a lot of crap. He turned doubters into believers. He played through everything.

The question will be what becomes of Kadri this summer when he hits free agency. The date is July 13 this year. He’s coming off a six-year, $27.5 million (U.S.) deal, with an average annual value of $4.5 million, signed when Lou Lamoriello was GM of the Leafs.

Morgan Rielly signed a similar deal under Lamoriello at the same time and parlayed that into an eight-year, $60 million extension that kicks in next year ($7.5 million AAV).

So Kadri will be looking for something in that ballpark, though if he switches teams he can only sign for seven years. He’ll be 32 when the season begins. Wouldn’t it be something if he ended up in Montreal. Or maybe Boston.

Questions please

If you have a question, email me at askkevinmcgran@gmail.com and I’ll answer it in the next Mailbag. To this Mailbag, where we discuss Auston Matthews and the Hart Trophy, Darcy Kuemper and Jack Campbell, Barry Trotz destinations, trading draft picks, and more.

Hi, Kevin. Understand that I’m as happy as can be with Auston Matthews’ Hart and Ted Lindsay trophy haul. But with No. 34 now being touted as possibly the greatest Leaf of all time, I’m once again bothered by the same question that nags at me every time people discuss sports GOATs: How accurately can you compare the best players of today with those of yesterday?

I’m reminded how Dick Beddoes, the colourful and outspoken journalist and TV sports personality, once insisted that Wayne Gretzky would have had his hands full making the fourth line of the 1942 Leafs. I’m aware that experts try to produce “era-adjusted” comparisons to determine who the GOATs are, but, given that few people are actually alive anymore who can give eyewitness accounts of how great many of the stars of the past were, how accurately can we make comparisons?

Leafs mailbag: Dollar days are coming for Nazem Kadri

— Mike in Jersey

If Gretzky couldn’t make the 1942 Leafs, that would be the fault of the scouts. Remember Leaf scouts passed on Bobby Orr and didn’t think much of Vladislav Tretiak.

But your point is taken. There’s no real way to be entirely “accurate.” That’s what bar-stool arguments are for.

Personally, I look at how players of each generation compare to their generation. Name the other Leafs who have led the league in goals two years in a row? That sort of thing puts Matthews at the top of the list. (A Stanley Cup would cement it.)

But I’ll reverse what Beddoes once said. Who on the 1942 Leafs could have made this squad? Well, maybe Turk Broda. Maybe Syl Apps. The game has come that far. The players are that much more fit. The players now are bigger and faster. They’re that much more skilled.

Hi Kevin! It’s been a while since I have written to the Mailbag so thought I’d send a quick email with a couple of questions.

It’s the morning after the 2022 NHL awards show and we know that Auston Matthews was awarded the Hart Trophy and Ted Lindsay Award to go along with his Richard Trophy (2022, 2021), Calder (2017) and all-star team nominations. So now I think we have to wonder what could his contract renewal look like in two years. It’s still early but any thoughts?

My other question has to do with the upcoming NHL draft (July 7-8). Do you have anything in particular that you’re looking forward to? Anything maybe about the Leafs?

As an aside, I ‘m not really eager to disagree with Charles Barkley that Kyle Bukauskas is the Canadian version of Tom Brady but I can’t help but agree with others and think that he’s more of a Rick Astley look-alike. Do we know if Kyle can throw a football or is he to be admired more for his singing voice and dance skills in addition to his “freaking awesome” hair? Just kidding.

— Janis J.-W. in North York

Nice to hear from you again, Janis. My guess: Matthews will command $16.34 million in average salary. Not sure the length, maybe just four or five years so he can get the final eight-year deal at around 30 or 31. Remember the cap should go up. And I’ll say he re-signs in Toronto (they’ll have cap space by then.)

I’m looking forward to the draft being in-person again, and in Montreal. Fun city.

And, yeah, Bukauskas is terrific and Rick Astley-like. If you’re old enough, maybe you remember Ward Cornell, who had some big hair for his era.

Hi Kev, hope your summer is going well. Another non-Leafs question: Where do think Barry Trotz will end up? I read last week that he turned down a $7-million-a-year offer from the Flyers. While I have not read this anywhere, my guess is that he was pursued by Florida, and rejected them too. So, if he comes back, what options are there? Detroit? Winnipeg? I just don’t think Winnipeg is high-profile enough for him. And if he is, as reported, looking for an eventual management role, what GM would hire him knowing he is looking over their shoulder? I thought of San Jose, with their management situation in flux.

By the way, watching the final, don’t think Leafs would have matched up well against Colorado.

— Steve J.

My bet is that Trotz ends up in Winnipeg. The team is a bit of a mess, and he’d be best-suited to sort it out. He’s from Manitoba. There’s something about going home.

Why do you think it is that offside calls are made with such precision (now aided by offside reviews), yet icing calls are often waved off when a puck is dumped in just short of the red line? Is it because icing is relatively inconsequential? I always wonder what the domino effect would be if icing was called just as strictly, particularly since they stopped allowing line changes for the icing team. Thanks a bunch!

— Brian K.

Because it’s the NHL.

Kevin, why have the Maple Leafs given away high and low draft picks over the decades at the trade deadline in a futile attempt to build a winner? Those picks could have been used to draft Canadian defencemen to develop on the Marlies. Why do the Leaf GMs continue to give the future away for very little return over the years? Maybe we would have a more balanced roster with way better quality depth by drafting more Canadians and having patience with them instead of Europeans.

— Jim in Hamilton

Hey Don C, I mean Jim. That’s kind of a loaded question there. First off, the Leafs aren’t the only team to trade draft picks to try to win now. If the Coyotes win the Cup, maybe it’ll be because they traded their first-round pick to Arizona for Darcy Kuemper. In fact, I don’t think you’ll find a Cup winner that kept all its draft picks. A second-round pick has something like a 20 per cent chance of playing in the NHL four years after he’s drafted. Better to get a player who can play now and worry about four years from now in four years. Carolina, Calgary, Florida, Vegas, Boston, and Chicago (and the Blackhawks didn’t even make the playoffs) are all teams that traded first-round picks.

And what is your fixation on Canadian defencemen? If you’re going to limit yourself to players from one country, you’re not really going to have much of a team. Try opening up your mind.

Who would you take as a goaltender, Jack Campbell or Darcy Kuemper? I don’t see Kuemper as a better goalie than Campbell, he just has the good fortune to have an elite team in front of him. If Campbell is Colorado’s goalie, they’re most likely in the same position, don’t you think?

— Brian K.

Kuemper was on Canada’s radar for the Olympics, built largely on his work in net for the Arizona Coyotes. In case you missed it, they’re not very good. Haven’t been for a while. He still posted save percentages of .925, .928 and .907 and was .921 in Colorado this year. He’s 32. Campbell is 30, and posted save percentages of .915, .921, .914, and .897. On the numbers alone, I’d take Kuemper.

But not by a lot. Campbell fits in with this Leafs team really well. And there is something to say about chemistry. Kuemper earned $5.5 million last year, and if he wins the Cup, he could go north of that. Campbell earned $1.8 million last year. He too could go north of $5 million. The Leafs goalie probably will be someone else.

I’m thinking that the Leafs play out the next two to three years because they have to. They’re stuck with two large salaries, John Tavares and Jake Muzzin. Not sure I like the talk of trading William Nylander (30 goals) or two young defencemen (Rasmus Sandin and Timothy Liljegren). Perhaps Nylander should be moved to centre, Tavares wherever?

How good are Lawson Crouse and Jakob Chychrun? Why would a rebuilding team trade two good young players? Would like their size in the Leafs lineup though, but not for Nylander who seems to be able to hit?

I guess I’m saying status quo, filling in where needed with Nick Robertson, Kristians Rubins, etc. for those lost. Would like to see them get some quality ice time with good players a la Michael Bunting.

— John H.

I think the Leafs will “play out” the next two to three years, not because they “have to” as you so downtroddenly put it, but because they want to. They’re excited to. I mean, do you no think they’re a playoff team?

Crouse is a big body (6-4) and just 25. Chychrun is the real deal, just 24. The Coyotes will trade them because that’s what they do. They don’t need to be good until they open their new rink in three years. And they don’t have a lot of money, so they don’t like to pay players.


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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