Couture: Kadri should sign short-term contract

Leafs GM Dave Nonis discusses the latest in the Nazem Kadri contract saga, saying if Kadri becomes the player we envision, he’ll become wealthy. Also discusses Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf’s contract situation.

NEW YORK – The roadmap to a big payday has already been established for Nazem Kadri.

As negotiations on a new contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs threaten to keep the 22-year-old restricted free agent away from the start of training camp, fellow NHLer Logan Couture believes Kadri would be wise to follow his lead by signing a short-term deal now and looking to hit a home run later.

“I don’t know why he doesn’t just do a two-year deal,” Couture told on Thursday during the NHL’s player media tour. “Play and have a good two years like you know you can and then you’ll sign a nice deal after. You’ve just got to be confident that you’re going to have two good years.”

One of the main sticking points between Kadri and the Leafs is believed to be the player’s desire to sign a long-term, big-money extension. The team would prefer a shorter bridge contract similar to the $5.75-million, two-year deal that Couture signed in San Jose in 2012.

That ended up working out well for the Sharks centre, who was rewarded with a $30-million, five-year extension earlier this summer. He said the negotiations between GM Doug Wilson and agent John Thornton on the most recent contract lasted just 20 minutes.

Back when Couture was coming off his entry-level deal like Kadri is now, he had no qualms about accepting a shorter deal that allowed him to establish himself as a high-level NHL player.

"We both decided what was fair for me and what I thought was fair," Couture said.

Second contracts have produced difficult negotiations for a number of players in recent years. Montreal Canadiens defenceman PK Subban had a brief holdout last season before signing a two-year bridge deal while five or six notable RFAs other than Kadri, including Alex Pietrangelo and Derek Stepan, who currently remain unsigned.

There is a pretty well-established path for players to get a big extension after signing a shorter second contract. In addition to Couture, Colorado Avalanche centre Matt Duchene, Dallas Stars winger Jamie Benn and Pittsburgh Penguins winger James Neal are among those who have followed that pattern.

In fact, Duchene believes the $7-million, two-year contract that he signed in 2012 was directly responsible for the $30-million, five-year deal that followed it.

"It motivated me to really push to get that next thing," Duchene said.

A little extra fuel for the fire could be an added benefit for Kadri if he ends up signing a short-term contract with the Leafs.

Duchene and Couture certainly have no regrets about doing it early in their NHL careers.

"At the end of the day, maybe I lost a few bucks at the end of my career in those two years that I could have potentially made if my third year had gone differently," Duchene said. "But that's not what I'm about, that's not what it's about for me. We're all making great livings here and it's not going to make a difference in the way I live my life and my well-being.

"I'm not too worried about it - the motivation was more beneficial than those extra dollars would have been."