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30 Mar 2018

Nazem Kadri: The best contract in the NHL?

Nazem Kadri: The best contract in the NHL?

Nazem Kadri has back-back 30 goal seasons now with the Toronto Maple Leafs while playing on a shutdown line - is he the most valuable player in the league?

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How has Kadri performed on that deal?

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How does he compare to other players?

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So is it the best deal?

(Photo credit: leafschik1967)

Before anyone starts getting angry, this is not a ‘Kadri for the Hart Trophy’ article. This article is designed to show that Nazem Kadri - for all his faults - has one of the most team-friendly contracts in the NHL.

In 2015 the Leafs signed Kadri to a one year ‘show me’ deal in which he scored 44 points. The team had a decision to make, could Kadri could be a long-term Leaf?

Trade rumors were aplenty, but the team decided that they would ink Kadri to a six-year deal for a modest cap hit of $4.5 million.

How has Kadri performed on that deal?

Well, the Leafs stunk for most Kadri’s early days as a Leaf and it really was no surprise that his production improved as the team got better. Mike Babcock assigned Kadri the role of keeping the oppositions best players quiet and Naz has thrived. 

Last season the Leafs were actually good and Kadri was a large reason for that improvement. His power play work was outstanding, his goal-scoring shot up and his defensive play proved he was a quality two-way center. 

32 goals and 29 assists gave Kadri 61 points and his best season as an NHL player.

This season Kadri has already surpassed the 30 goal mark and looks like he could reach 60 points again. The Leafs have relied on Kadri to play hard minutes every night and he has risen to the challenge admirably proving that he is one of the best defensive centers in the league.

How does he compare to other players?

Okay, so what is important to understand when comparing to other players is their contract situation. I will not compare with ELC’s because those deals are capped by the league. I will also not look at players on short-term deals as these players will probably get raises if they are scoring boatloads of points this season.

So who are we left with? Mika Zibanejad signed a new five-year deal this summer paying over $5 million per year - he has 46 points on a bad Rangers side.

Tyler Johnson signed a seven-year, $35 million deal this summer and has 50 points so far this season.

Jonathan Toews is in the third year of his seven-year $84-million contract and has one more point than Kadri this season - he earned more than double though.

Compared to other 30 goal scorers this season, Kadri has the second lowest value contract of any player who is signed until 2020. 

The only other player comparable to Kadri is Sean Couturier who has 31 goals and is paid $4.33 million per season until 2022 - but Couturier plays top-line minutes in Philly. 

So is it the best deal?

Well, the Leafs have Kadri signed until 2022 and the cap only seems to rise. A key part of the team is signed long-term for potentially less than 5% of the team's overall cap hit.

Kadri is signed to such a great deal that the team can keep him on board with the three standout players - Matthews, Marner and Nylander - and build the team. 

If Kadri were to be up for renewal this summer, he would easily command $6-7 million dollars per year. Just look at the money James van Riemsdyk is likely to get in free agency.

I would argue that this deal is one of the best in the league because Kadri is signed through his peak years on a cap hit that will only look better with a rising salary cap.