Both sides are playing hardball.
With Toronto Maple Leafs training camp mere days from opening, the club and Nazem Kadri remain far apart in terms of settling on a new contract in the wake of the rising young centre’s breakout season.
The Leafs have invited Kadri, a restricted free agent, to training camp but fully expect him – and fellow RFA Cody Franson – not to participate if a new deal isn’t struck soon.
So will Kadri be a no-show when camp opens?
“If that’s what it takes,” the 22-year-old forward told Sportsnet’s Caroline Cameron and other reporters Wednesday at the Leafs’ practice facility. “I don’t want to (skip camp). I want to be here come training camp.”
Dave Poulin, the Leafs vice president of hockey operations, said Tuesday the club had sent Kadri “a very fair offer.” Both sides claim the next move belongs to the other.
“It’s not cap-related — we believe it’s a fair offer, it’s representative of the body of work that he has done in his time here,” Poulin said. “Sometimes a deadline is required.”
Sportsnet’s David Alter reported last week that Kadri’s side opened negotiations by seeking a contract in the neighbourhood of $36 million over six years and that the player’s camp is open to bringing that number down to $5 million per season to help the Leafs with their current cap squeeze. The Leafs, according to Alter’s information, were more interested in giving Kadri a short-term bridge deal in the neighbourhood of $6 million over two years (see: Subban, P.K.).
Kadri questioned the validity of Alter’s information over Twitter. “@DavidAlter590 ur stories r so inaccurate it’s actually humorous #badcred,” the player tweeted. The message has since been deleted.
“I just don’t know where those numbers are coming from, to be honest,” Kadri told reporters at MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence Wednesday. “Not many people know the truth.”
Kadri was asked if he wished to clear the air on whether he’s being misrepresented in the media.
“Not really, I just want something that’s fair, that’s all,” he said. “I don’t want everyone to think I’m unfair, while really I’m not being selfish at all.”
The centreman’s expired entry-level deal was valued at $5.25 million over three seasons. He scored 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points in 48 games played for the Leafs last season. Kadri added another four points in the team’s seven-game playoff series loss to the Boston Bruins.
Kadri and Franson are joined by the St. Louis Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo, the New York Rangers’ Derek Stepan and the Buffalo Sabres’ Cody Hodgson as talented RFAs whose contracts remain unsettled with puck drop less than a month away.