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.
Check PHT every day until June 30 for a new pending unrestricted free agent of the day. Today’s UFA of the Day is…
He set new career-highs in 2014-15 with seven goals and 36 points in 78 contests, which is in a way remarkable given how rough his reunion with Nashville went. The 27-year-old defenseman already had 32 points in 55 games with Toronto before he was sent to the Predators on Feb. 15 along with Mike Santorelli in exchange for Olli Jokinen, Brendan Leipsic, and what turned out to be the 24th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (later traded to Philadelphia and used to draft Travis Konecny).
At the time, Nashville was leading the Presidents’ Trophy race and setting the stage for what it hoped would be a lengthy playoff run. Nashville struggled following the trade though and Franson was limited to just 15:25 minutes per contest after averaging 21:23 minutes in Toronto.
In retrospect, Predators GM David Poile felt Franson wasn’t a good fit and he consequently won’t be back for the 2015-16 campaign.
That shouldn’t sour other clubs towards him though as an offensive defenseman with a right-handed shot tends to draw attention. The British Columbia-native has shown an interest in Vancouver and also is hoping that Toronto wants him back.
Teams like the Dallas Stars, Florida Panthers, and San Jose Sharks might be in the mix as well.
Not even 30 years old, Mike Santorelli has already played for five NHL teams.
In fact, the 29-year-old has bounced around so much that he just finished his second stint with one of those teams, the Nashville Predators.
According to his agent, he’d consider a second stint with another of his former teams, the Vancouver Canucks, when he officially becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1.
“I’m sure he would — he loved playing for his hometown team,” J.P. Barry told News 1130 Sports.
Santorelli, a Vancouver native, had 10 goals and 18 assists in 49 games for the Canucks in 2013-14. But despite “100 percent” wanting to stay in Vancouver, he signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Maple Leafs this past summer, as the Canucks lacked a roster spot for the versatile center.
The Canucks may have room now, however, as Brad Richardson and Shawn Matthias are both pending UFAs. And while Henrik Sedin, Nick Bonino, and Bo Horvat are all expected to play center next season, 23-year-old Linden Vey failed to prove he can be an effective, everyday NHL center this past season.
That’s not to say the Canucks will definitely have an interest in Santorelli, but if they can get him for a hometown discount, it may be something they consider.
Related: They were chanting Mike Santorelli’s name last night in Vancouver