As most people are probably aware, the NHL suspended Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri for the remainder of the regular season on Monday. The suspension stems from his cross-check to Detroit Red Wings centre Luke Glendening on Saturday night.
Kadri is a repeat offender under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, with a four-game suspension last April for his hit to the head of Matt Fraser and a three-game ban in 2013 for railroading goalie Niklas Backstrom.
Kadri was also fined by the NHL on Friday for “diving,” so it’s safe to say he’s had the league’s attention.
He’s also had the Leafs’ attention, with the 25-year-old wrapping the year with 17 goals and 28 assists. That should put him in line as Toronto’s top scorer when the season finally closes on Saturday.
Kadri’s impressive season is the second best of his career. He collected 50 points in 78 games in 2013-2014, but he was arguably more impactful this season.
Kadri had a career-best 260 shots on goal, which towers over 2014-2015 when he had 176 shots on goal. He was also effective on the draw, winning a career-best 49.16 percent of his faceoffs. His 14 power play points is only bested by his performance in 2013-2014 when he put up 18 power play points.
Kadri’s base salary this season was $4.1 million and this will be the second straight summer Toronto has a chance to lock him up to something more long-term. If they balk by having him sign a one-year deal, it’ll have the same effect as arbitration and drive up his market value.
The smart money’s on the Maple Leafs locking up this key piece of the franchise. He’s managed to remain solid even in the middle of a rebuild and he’s been creating highlights and drawing attention. He’s drawn more penalties than any other NHLer over the past three years and by March’s end he was leading in the category again, drawing 28 more penalties than he took.
This suspension is something the Maple Leafs can weather, obviously, but it’s also something they can use to shine an interesting light on Kadri. He’s the sort of player that draws attention; he’s the only player, as far as anyone can tell, to both give and receive a throat-slashing gesture this season.
If the Maple Leafs are smart, they’ll use this. They’ll draw up a juicy contract with significant term and put Kadri where he belongs. They let him be the shift-disturber he is and they’ll reward his unique set of skills.