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
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.
RFA forward Gabriel Bourque accepted his qualifying offer from Nashville on Thursday, locking him into a one-year deal that pays $866,250.
Bourque, 24, has been a regular lineup fixture in Nashville over the last two seasons. After scoring 11 goals in just 34 games during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, he set career highs in ’13-14 in assists (17) and points (26).
Last year, though, was a bit of a step back. Bourque only played in 69 games and his TOI dropped to 12:01 per night. He also finished with just three goals and a minus-13 rating.
It’ll be interesting to see where Bourque fits next season. Forwards Matt Cullen, Viktor Stalberg, Mike Santorelli and Rich Clune are all either gone or likely to go elsewhere, but the club did add Cody Hodgson and Steve Moses.