Author: Jason Brough

Nazem Kadri

Babcock expects Kadri to be ‘an elite player’


Expectations for Nazem Kadri have always been high. When you’re a seventh overall draft pick, that’s going to be the case.

But with Phil Kessel gone and Tyler Bozak potentially out the door next, new coach Mike Babcock expects the 24-year-old Maple Leafs center — armed with a one-year, prove-it contract —  to take his game to another level next season.

“I expect him to be an elite player,” Babcock said of Kadri, per the Toronto Star.

“He gets to come in and have a heck of a year and put the screws to us. Why wouldn’t he? If I’m him, I’m going to have the best year of my career because I’m training the way I should and living the way I should, then why wouldn’t I have a short-term deal?”

Kadri finished 2014-15 with 18 goals and 21 assists in 73 games. While those numbers don’t exactly scream “elite player,” it should be noted he played mostly with Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli.

With that in mind, it’ll be interesting to see if Babcock gives Kadri more time with James van Riemsdyk, who skated almost exclusively with Kessel and Bozak on Toronto’s much-maligned first line.

Related: Leafs sign Matthias — one year, $2.3 million

No expansion bid expected from Kansas City

Los Angeles Kings v St. Louis Blues

While groups from Seattle, Las VegasToronto and Quebec City are expected to apply for NHL expansion teams, one from Kansas City is not.

From Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star:

The NHL has vaguely mentioned Kansas City as a possible expansion market, and the Sprint Center’s lack of an anchor tenant makes this a natural question. But, as best I can tell, no one from or representing Kansas City will be among those submitting bids for a team to play here.

Lamar Hunt Jr., who owns the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks, a minor-league hockey team that plays in Independence, called the NHL’s $500 million price tag for an expansion franchise “a ridiculously big fee,” and said that he is not aware of anyone in Kansas City who will make a push for a team.

The Sprint Center opened in 2007 and seats around 17,500 for hockey. It currently has no full-time tenants, though the Pittsburgh Penguins flirted with the idea of moving in a few years ago.

Related: Got $500 million? NHL to begin ‘formal expansion review process’

Leafs sign Matthias — one year, $2.3 million

Tuukka Rask, Shawn Matthias, Dennis Seidenberg

The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed forward Shawn Matthias to a one-year contract worth a reported $2.3 million.

Matthias finished with a career-high 18 goals last season in Vancouver, and he did so in a bottom-six role with barely any time on the power play.

Th 27-year-old can play either center or wing, making him a good match for a team that may or may not trade center Tyler Bozak.

Matthias could also net the Leafs something at the trade deadline, a la Daniel Winnik and Mike Santorelli this past season. That’s assuming Toronto’s out of the playoff picture at that time.