Rielly, Kadri: Knee Jerk Thoughts

There are very few sure things in this world, yet these new Morgan Rielly and Nazem Kadri contracts are sure to not turn out to be bad for anyone involved.

Rielly’s new contract sees him with cap hit of $5m over the next six years. I had to laugh when I saw this because just last night I was wondering what Rielly’s true value in a long term contract would be if he chose to go with a long term extension. I had settled that he wouldn’t be worth in the $7m range right now but would be okay with it over the course of 6 years or so because that’s how high I see his ceiling to be. So my initial reaction to this new contract is that is an absolute steal for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Whenever I see Rielly play he gives off this student vibe. That everything he does is incredibly calculated so that he learns more about how to handle future on-ice situations better than last time. He’s ever growing, like each game is just practise until he’s ready to show his true dominant, efficient self. I believe that time will come soon. He does elite level things effortlessly, he just needs to do it with consistency.

This contract was a no brainer for the Leafs organization, locking up the face of the franchise to team friendly 6 year deal. The one question I would love to get an answer to is whether or not Rielly’s agent thought this was a good deal or a great deal for his client. Five million dollars a year is nothing for anyone to scoff at but I can’t help but feel this was the wrong move on his camp’s part. Had he pushed for a 2 year bridge deal at say $3.5–4.5 per year, I see no reason why he wouldn’t have commanded a contract in $7m-plus territory had he showed continued increase in production (which he is projected to do) and a salary cap that will keep rising, inflating new player contracts and valuations as it does. Rielly has never struck me as a person that truly puts money before everything else. I imagine he loves the city, the fans, the people, his teammates, and even the Blue Jays. So I’m not totally shocked he settled for less money at the benefit of security. This was a decision made with his heart, not his wallet, it appears.

Nazem Kadri penned a six-year contract as well with an AAV of $4.5. The first red flag is the term of it. It’s a long time to commit to a player who has not put together a consistent 82 game season in his career. With that said, we know what Kadri is. He’s never going to be a first line center and he’s probably never going to put Mike Ribiero like production. What he is going to be is a solid offensive depth center who won’t be expected to change the losing ways of this franchise on his own anymore. He may even have a couple 60 point seasons in his future. Time will tell. This was certainly an easy deal for Kadri to sign. It’s a very generous salary and he’s received security with the term, in a city he loves being in, wearing the blue and white of his childhood team.

To me, everything about this deal makes sense for the Leafs. I am absolutely certain there are lot’s of people who are going to be furious on the internet over it, so let me explain my take. The first thing I had to ask myself is what is the proper value of a third line center, powerplay specialist going to be in 2–3 years? Management certainly must know they aren’t going to win a Cup with him as their number 2 center unless they surround him with genuinely great wingers, which could happen depending on how they draft and groom their prospects. With that in mind, there’s more reason to believe Kadri will not be their every day second line pivot if they want to win at an elite level. That leaves Kadri as the third line center, behind whomever they sign/draft in the near future and William Nylander. So the question really is if Kadri is worth being a $4.5m third line center and powerplay specialist, assuming he’s playing behind true first and second line centers. Considering it’s hard to come by that sort of player and the cap will continue to increase, this deal makes a lot of sense. They didn’t over pay for him, it was smart man management. They won’t need him to be the guy, just a productive player. The term, however, does appear to be a bit long but I still find it hard to imagine this turning into a bad contract. We know Kadri can put offensive numbers even when he’s surrounded by turkeys. It should put a smile on Leaf’s fans faces that in about 2 seasons Kadri will be producing on their second powerplay unit, because this signing is an testament to how bright their future may be.


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