The NHL trade deadline is just around the corner, and one name that's been creeping into the discussion in recent weeks is Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri. It's a bit surprising to hear his name mentioned -- even in speculation -- given that he's still pretty young and one of the most talented players on the Maple Leafs' roster.
On Thursday, general manager Dave Nonis appeared on TSN Radio 1250 and addressed the trade speculation. While he said that he's not actively shopping Kadri and isn't close to doing so, he did admit that he would be "willing" to do it if they received the right package.
"There's a lot of interest in Nazem Kadri and would we be willing to trade him? Yes, we'd be willing to trade him, but there's a big difference between willing to and trying to," Nonis said. "We're not trying to move him. I'm not anywhere near trading Nazem Kadri."
Well, that's a relief. Probably.
The fact it's even come to this probably has something to do with Kadri's scoring numbers decreasing a little bit this season from where they were a year ago, from 18 goals and 26 assists in 48 games last season, to 11 goals and 16 assists in 45 games this season.
Nonis had some thoughts on that, as well.
"I think it's easy to say but Naz is having a decent year," said Nonis. "What happened to him is last year he was playing in the two or three hole for most of the season, and by doing that he was playing against team's second or third lines. This year because of injury we put him in a situation that was difficult for him. He's still a young guy, there's no denying his skill-set and ability. We're not disappointed with him, he's a very skilled player and we need him to perform down the stretch."
The thing about this is Kadri might actually be a better player this season despite having worse scoring numbers. It's the exact opposite of what has been happening to Tyler Bozak recently. Instead of the puck going in the net every single time he touches it, things have kind of gone in the opposite direction for Kadri. Sometimes that is out of a player's control.
The question shouldn't be why are his numbers so far down this year; it should be, why were his numbers so good a year ago. The answer was an unsustainable run of shooting luck that resulted in the Maple Leafs scoring on 15 percent of their shots when he was on the ice last season. That was not only the highest mark in the NHL that season, but one of the highest marks of any player in the league over the past five years.
That simply was not going to last.
Sooner or later the puck stops going in, and that is part of what has been happening to Kadri this year.
Kadri is still only 23 and a player who should be a 60-70 point producer in most years. That's a valuable asset and the type of player Toronto should be looking to acquire, not send packing. As a general manager, your job is to always listen when other teams call about any player, but some players have prices higher than others.
The price on Kadri, given his age, contract and ability, should be the highest of just about any player on the Leafs.