With Maple Leaf training camp set to open next week on Wednesday there could be two notable players absent. Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri, both restricted free agents, have yet to come to terms on new contracts with the Leafs.
Nazem Kadri is fresh off a breakout (shortened) season where he notched 44 points and finished in a tie for 21st place in league scoring. Kadri is coming off his entry-level contract, which came with a cap hit of $1.72 million but paid him substantially less. There’s no arguing Kadri is due for a raise but the Leafs are wary about locking him up for the long-term deal he seeks on the heels of just one impressive campaign. The Leafs are rumoured to be looking to sign him to a “bridge contract” similar to the two-year deal signed by P.K. Subban for $2.875 million per season.
Franson earned a prorated $1.8 million last season and is also due for a raise. Cody not only led the Leaf defensemen in scoring last season with 29 points, but also finished in a tie for 6th in scoring among all NHL D-men.
With just $5.9 million cap space available, it’s difficult to foresee a scenario where all parties walk away happy. Signing Nazem Kadri has to be the priority for the Leafs. With other puck-moving defencemen like Jake Gardiner, Carl Gunnarsson and prospect Morgan Reilly waiting in the wings, Toronto has plenty of options on the blue line. Despite the off-season additions of Bolland and Clarkson, the Leafs will not be able to replace Kadri’s offensive firepower. With just under a week to go until camp opens, there’s still time for Leaf management to come to terms with both Kadri and Franson. Here’s hoping the Leafs can come to a resolution quickly so that the team can get down to business and focus on the task at hand – to return to the postseason for a second straight year.
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