On Sunday August 11th Nazem Kadri hosted his first ever charity golf tournament just outside his hometown of London, ON. Of course with the media all over the event, questions about his current contract negotiations with Dave Nonis and company arose. With just weeks until training camp opens up and teams get ready for the 2013-14 season, Kadri remains a restricted free agent and it seems that the two sides may not be as close as he would like.
Just weeks ago Kadri made it public that he was not worried about how the negotiations were going and seemed very confident that a deal would get done. However, it seems that these same calm feelings may be starting to fade.
The Leafs have just over $4 million in cap space left to sign both Kadri and Cody Franson, two players that were very key to the Leafs improved season that saw them make the playoffs for the first time since 2004. Kadri finished second in team scoring behind only Phil Kessel, while Franson lead all Maple Leaf blue-liners in points with 29. Franson's 29 points were one better than captain Dion Phaneuf's 28 points.
During the 2013 season Kadri made $1.7 million while Franson brought in $1.2 million. It is clear that both players are due for a raise and unfortunately that is what is making negotiations so hard for both the players and the Maple Leafs' management.
However, it is already believed that in the seasons following the 2013-14 season the cap will once again rise, which Kadri says he already understands. Now if both players are serious about staying put in Toronto and about receiving a raise then I believe there could be one way to make everyone happy.
I believe that the Leafs could offer both players one year deals which include a slight raise from last year and then once the cap increases both players can look at receiving the pay increases they feel they deserve from the Leafs organization. This way the players would still get increases from last year, but would still be under the $4 million dollar mark.
This is not a perfect way to solve the problem and it actually would have to have both players working together as well as with management to make it happen. If both players would not agree to this then the idea would crumble, but if they could agree it might be the best way to appease everyone for the time being.
Kadri is coming off his first complete season (hard to say since it was a shortened season) and the same can be said about Franson as he played under a coach in Carlyle who kept him in the lineup. So does this mean that we should take this shortened season in a smaller light than a complete 82 game season? These are things likely all be talked about behind closed doors among the players and Nonis. This would also work out best for both sides as it would see both players play a full 82 game season and give management to see how the players can produce in a full season where they will also play against the entire league and not just their own conference.
Kadri will also benefit this upcoming season as with the buyout this off-season of Mikhail Grabovski, Kadri will likely take over as the second line centreman, likely between Lupul and newly acquired Clarkson. This is a trio that could press for first line minutes and points, something that could drive up Kadri's price tag in the following years.
Another key piece of the puzzle that will soon come into affect, if it hasn't already, is the contract of Phil Kessel. It has become quite clear that the Maple Leafs need to work on signing Kessel to a long-term contract extension and seeing as though Kessel has been one of the most productive goal scorers in the NHL in the past few years he will also be in demand for a pay increase. So, paying too much for Kadri and Franson is something management will not want to do if it puts Kessel's services in jeopardy.
Kadri and Franson are both highly talented, important, and still young players that the Leafs would love to have back, but if they can't find a way to play within the money the Leafs have, either one or both players might lose their spot with the organization.
So for now negotiations will continue, but if this summer has told us anything it might be that someone, whether it be management or the players, is going to have to give in, but with just $4 million in cap space there is only so much that management can do.
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