Even after exercising his limited no trade clause to turn down a trade to Calgary early in the summer, the 28-year-old centre said he had no idea his longtime organization had decided he’d be on the move.
“I just didn’t really get the impression I was being shopped around and my initial feeling was to stay in Toronto and that’s kind of why that situation panned out the way it did,” the Colorado Avalanche newbie said Thursday morning when asked why he nixed a trade that would have sent defenceman TJ Brodie to the Leafs.
“It was nothing against Calgary. I obviously love that city and love going there as a visiting team. I just had aspirations of staying put.”
Did he come close to becoming a Flame?
“Yes, I did – I came very close,” said Kadri who revealed he spent several days mulling over relocation.
“It was a tough decision. There was a lot to think about for me and my family. It’s not just me that’s going to be living there so I had to take everybody else’s feelings into consideration. It was close, but at the end of the day I think I made the right decision.”
Soon after rejecting the Flames deal, he was sent to Colorado with Calle Rosen and a third-round draft pick in exchange for Tyson Barrie and Alex Kerfoot.
“Yes, I was bummed out – I’d be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t,” the London, Ont. native said of the swap that caught him completely off guard.
“I quickly turned the page. Obviously I have a lot of memories and a lot of things I’ll never forget over there. They treated me well, but now my focus is playing with the Avalanche and doing whatever it takes to win. I really want to be here.”
Kadri said he understood immediately the opportunity that would present itself in Denver as a second–line centre playing behind the NHL’s most potent line: Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen.
What many others recognized months earlier was that Kadri’s playoff suspensions for dirty hits each of the last two seasons not only played a role in Leafs series losses, but in sealing his fate.
Toronto had run out of patience with his lack of discipline and managed to send the veteran west to land a top-pairing defenceman they so dearly needed to replace the soon-to-depart Jake Gardiner.
Asked if he’d miss the pressure of playing in Toronto under an intense media glare, he smiled.
“I’m going to miss the city of Toronto,” said Kadri, a two-time 30-goal man who had been relegated to third-line status on a Leafs team deep up front.
“But definitely that white noise… it’s something I thought was normal, but it definitely isn’t. It’s a nice change of pace. Here it’s a lot different in terms of just a little more laid back and a few less distractions, so you can really focus on what you do on the ice.”
On Thursday, his Avalanche will open against none other than the Flames at Pepsi Center where he was a focal point of a much smaller media contingent after morning skate.
“It’s a lot different but I think it kind of reenergizes you a little bit,” said the former first rounder of his first season opener in 10 seasons not wearing a Maple Leafs jersey.
“In a sense I feel like a rookie again, coming to a new team. The feeling of those butterflies, just like I was a kid again. There’s a bunch of studs in this locker room. Definitely a recipe for success. If we all meld it together and we match our work ethic with our skill-set, the sky is the limit.”
Did he manage to watch the Leafs’ 5-3 win Wednesday night?
“I did – they looked pretty good,” smiled Kadri, slated to play alongside Tyson Jost and Andre Burakovsky.
“It was a little bizarre not to be a part of it, but I’m part of something special here, so I’m excited about it.”