Was It Time for the Maple Leafs to Trade Nazem Kadri?

After 10 seasons, Nazem Kadri is gone. His letter, posted on Instagram, was touching. Part of his final words to Toronto Maple Leafs fans were:

“Words cannot describe what this city means to me. You welcomed me in as a boy and watched me grow and evolve in front of your eyes. Thank you for opening your arms up and making me feel right at home. You asked for my heart and I gave you my soul.”


He added: “I believe my best years are in front of me and I cannot wait to join my new team. The new chapter starts now, thank you Toronto for everything you have done for me. I will never forget.”

Kadri sounds like a player who loved playing with the Maple Leafs but who also accepted hockey as a business where he needed to get his head into how he will contribute to his new team.

Thanks for Your Intensity

I never faulted Kadri for playing with an edge. He was smart enough to know his team needed someone to be tough, and it would be him or no one. Although I was upset that he was suspended for sticking up for teammate Patrick Marleau when Jake DeBrusk dangerously hit him, I wasn’t so much upset at him but at the situation. Like Kadri, I thought someone had to respond.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Kyle Dubas Facing First Real Test as GM

Kadri should be commended that he cared to protect his teammates. That intensity made him a good player and a fan favorite.

Sometimes his choices hurt the team. But who on the roster will step up now that Kadri is gone? The team will miss him.

The Pros-and-Cons of Trading Kadri

The conversation about trading him was divided. Many fans believed he should be traded while others appreciated his loyalty and, because he had been with the Leafs during many bad seasons, wanted him to enjoy their success.

Nazem Kadri
Former Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri. (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)

The Reasons NOT to Trade Kadri Included:

Reason One: Kadri Was a Hometown Player

Although London, ON, is further down the road than a Toronto suburb, he’s still an “Ontario Guy” as Don Cherry once said. In Toronto, you can’t have too many players from Ontario.

Related: Ceci & Kerfoot Sign Extensions With Maple Leafs

Reason Two: Kadri Gave the Maple Leafs Enviable Depth at Center

With Kadri, the Maple Leafs had depth at center that any team would desire. In addition, he’d been a “project” of coach Mike Babcock since Babcock came to Toronto, and he’d responded with two 30-goal seasons.

Nazem Kadri Maple Leafs
Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs, Dec. 12, 2017. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reason Three: Kadri Seldom Missed a Game and Could Score

In his time as a regular with the Maple Leafs, Kadri averaged almost 80 games each season. In 2016-17, Kadri scored 32 goals and 29 assists for 61 points. The following season, he scored 32 goals and 23 assists for 55 points.

He’d been effective throughout his career, and his history of success gave the team a solid forward core. I don’t remember him ever taking a night off.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Patrick Marleau: Taking One for the Team?

Despite these reasons, there were also good reasons to move Kadri this off-season.

The Reasons to Trade Kadri Included:

Reason One: He Was Older Than His Years

A rule of thumb suggests that a team should trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late. Kadri has a couple of seasons of great hockey left, but I think his style of play has worn him down physically. The 28-year-old, third-line center is older than his years.

Kadri never played on the perimeter and, because he didn’t, he’s taken his lumps over the years. Such physical play eventually takes a toll; ask 31-year-old Milan Lucic of the Edmonton Oilers.

Nazem Kadri, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nazem Kadri (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reason Two: He Had a Contract Other Teams Coveted

Kadri played effectively against other teams’ top lines but still contributed offensively. He was effective at neutralizing opposing scorers, but he was a proven 30-goal center who was at his prime. And he did it for a bargain by today’s NHL standards at $4.5 million AAV.

No wonder there was a good trade market for Kadri and that he netted such good return. That he and young defenseman Calle Rosen brought in Tyson Barrie (with the Colorado Avalanche carrying part of Barrie’s contract) and Alexander Kerfoot from the Colorado Avalanche proves how highly Kadri was valued by the Avalanche. I’m sure they weren’t the only team.

Related: Maple Leafs’ Nikita Zaitsev Calls Don Cherry a Clown: Is He Right?

With the trade, the Maple Leafs improved their team and gained salary cap space. General manager Kyle Dubas deserves an A for his work.

Reason Four: The Maple Leafs Already Have a Replacement or Two

Although Kadri is gone, the trade brought back Kerfoot. He isn’t Kadri, but he’s more than an adequate third-line center.

As well, it didn’t take long for the team to sign a veteran, 36-year-old center in Jason Spezza on a value contract. In Spezza, the Maple Leafs get scoring and power-play leadership. He won’t replace Kadri’s physical play, but he can help replace his scoring.

2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series

Nazem Kadri, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in front of goaltender Frederik Andersen. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images)

Trading Kadri Was a Wise Decision

Sadly, it was time to trade Kadri. The Kadri for Barrie trade has helped shaped the Maple Leafs roster in an advantageous way. The team remains blessed with good forwards, and now it has the start of a strong defense. There’s no doubt that making the trade made sense.

Related: Maple Leafs Need to Trade for an Enforcer to Save Kadri

I believe Kadri will fit in well with star Nathan MacKinnon and will help carry the Avalanche towards further success. I wish him well. The Maple Leafs will miss him.