Hog tied in Hogtown
Ok, let’s understand eachother: pro hockey, especially the business side of it, ain’t all sunshine and roses.
So if discussing current events sans the blue and white goggles sticks in your craw, please find something else to read this morning…
If you’re still on board, you’re probably either a realist, or you’re curious enough to at least know what I’m on about before having a go and accusing me of sensationalist tactics. Homey don’t play that game despite what you may have heard. Truth is, I’ve always said hockey is interesting enough – it doesn’t need an outsider’s hyperbolic ranting to make it “sexy”. Still, this is the Blue and White Bubble we are in here, where all things Leafs are a constant source of discussion. Some discussions like those participating, being more intelligent than others, mind you…
Here’s the skinny: the Maple Leafs are less than 2 weeks from camp and at this point, their house is anything but in order. And, that’s a tad troubling, no matter what side of the debate you’re on.
Last year, Coach Carlyle indicated that what players could expect from the organization going forward are defined roles and an open-door communication policy. It paid off in spades in the cases of two of the team’s most productive pieces; Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri. And yes, we’re still talking about them, because it’s still news.
Franson proved what he could do with a defined role. He was one of the league’s better powerplay options from the point, and real a difference maker for the Leafs, ultimately leading all Leaf defenders in points last season. Kadri demonstrated what happens when the coach takes the time to communicate with his charges by putting together a pretty impressive breakthrough campaign. Number fourty-three was also rather vocal in his appreciation of Carlyle’s efforts to communicate effectively; a huge contrast from Rotten Ronny’s cold shoulder approach.
The only message being communicated today is that whatever table scraps have found their way to the boardroom floor after the buffet Nonis and co. laid out for several other “priority” signings is what is available for the two to pick away at. In the words of Dave Poulin, the offer made to Kadri is “fair”, and is based not on salary cap, but on “body of work”.
Fair enough, but if I’m Kadri’s agent, I’m saying that “in fairness” they might want to look at a couple comparables around the league with similar “bodies of work” at the time of their new deals being issued.
I’d start with the obvious; guys in the same range in terms of pedigree and experience level, with similar numbers. There’s not a lot, mind you, as most top 10 picks from 2009 have a couple hundred ganes under their belts. Gabriel Landeskog has played just 19 more NHL games than Kadri. He has 31 goals and 38 assists for a total of 69 points. Kadri has 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points in total. Landeskog went 2nd overall; Kadri 7th. Landeskog won a Calder. Kadri really only broke through after fourty-nine games into his NHL career. Landeskog is the captain of the Avalanche, while Kadri is trying to prove he can hang in the top 6 over the long haul. Are they exact comparables? Certainly not, but if Poulin and the rest of the board want to talk body of work, Kadri’s representatives could certainly argue that there’s all kinds of middle ground between Landeskog’s seven-year, 40 million dollar deal and the 2.5-3 million dollar bridge deal that appears to be the hill Nonis is prepared to die on for Kadri to remain a Leaf. Do nine points really make that much of a difference? If not, then we need to conclude that body of work alone isn’t a very good measuring stick at all in determining Naz’s worth.
Sure, there’s all kinds of reason to believe that Kadri has no leverage here. But there’s also every reason to believe that maybe, that ain’t necessarily so. Let’s remember that once upon a time, Phil Kessel was a restricted free agent who made it clear that he wanted a hefty raise, which ultimately led to his trade, and subsequent hefty raise. Different body of work, I know, but the leverage is still there, because Kadri is the only decent home-grown centreman with a legitimate shot at being a 1C, in the entire Leafs organization. Let’s not overlook the Ryan O’Reilly fiasco which eventually led to Colorado being forced to match an offer sheet for pretty much what the player was requesting anyway, and all that was accomplished there was some awkwardness and ill will between all parties concerned. Do we really want to go that route here? I submit to you, dear reader, that Kadri has endured enough and more with regards to his character, work habits, attitude, and even questions about his body mass index, and that at some point, we need to start rewarding him for his services. The kid has taken it on the chin since 2009, while proving that he’s a worthwhile investment for the team and its fans to make a meaningful commitment to. Still, he gets no real love from this organization, and Leaf fans once again appear ready to turn on him if he doesn’t take it on the chin and let Nonis off the hook for his apparent lack of concern, or appreciation for the team’s best young centreman.
After watching Nonis spend large on other assets like it was no big whoop while Kadri was left out in the cold, it would be tough to fault him if the lifelong Habs fan turned coat and pulled a Phil Kessel, when all is said and done. How much would it suck for you personally to see Kadri sportin’ a toilet seat on his jersey instead of a Maple Leaf? It could very well happen…
As for Franson, he’s still getting the cold shoulder after riding it out since he was acquired for Brett Lebda in 2011. You’d think after the loyalty and patience shown by both men that the organization would show a little more appreciation than what they have to date.
I don’t feel sorry for celebrity millionaires any more than I do the people who make them millionaires, but one can almost sense the tension and frustration mounting between all parties concerned, and assuming this ends well enough for both Kadri and Franson to be on the roster come training camp is not something I’d be too quick to jump to just yet. According to leading insider/analyst Bob McKenzie, the parties involved are nowhere close to a deal at this point. Still, the organization controls both player’s rights, which do not include arbitration. Well, Franson’s did, apparently, but he agreed to waive those rights and wait for an offer. Both kadri and Franson are, for all intents and purposes, hog-tied to the Maple Leafs organization for the foreseeable future, with no choice but to either accept a deal that doesn’t particularly flatter them, or sit out until they are either traded, or the organization blinks.
I don’t have a clue how this will play out. My gig is opnionist, not prognosticator. My opinion is that this situation appears to have been handled rather poorly to date. When an aging, under-utilized defender like Liles remains on the books for almost four million a year while two of the teams’ brightest assets are on the outside looking in, with nine days until camp, you have to wonder if they simply ran into a dead end at some point and are now forcing Kadri and Franson to accept mediocre deals as a result of their inability to create some cap space.
Am I the only one who wonders if, had the team been able to move Liles, this “body of work” argument would never have come up? I don’t think so. I think the team simply ran out of enough money to be able to offer them what they should have been offered 6 weeks ago so everyone could have enjoyed their summer with a clear head.
This is the part where I should conclude with a nugget of truth and relate it back to the topic of this piece. I’m not going to bother; if you don’t get it by now, another 70 keystrokes won’t change a thing. Kadri and Franson are difference makers being treated like they are an afterthought. I think that just sucks. How motivated do you reckon they’re going to be as the team looks to improve on last year’s success?