With Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and John Tavares all gracing the same roster, Nazem Kadri may not be the first name out of your mouth when talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs. But you also don’t need to tell Leaf fans how valuable Kadri is to the team.
Part of the value lies in Kadri’s extremely cap friendly contract. When he was signed in 2016, a six-year deal with a $4.5M AAV made sense. It would carry him through his prime and at the time he signed it, he was coming off a 45-point season.
But if the past two and a bit seasons have shown us anything, it’s that some players only really hit their stride later in their career. Lucky for the Leafs, Kadri hit his stride a couple months after putting pen to paper. Since 2016-17, he has 129 points in 180 games, averaging out to about 59 points/82 games.
So what if Kadri’s contract was signed this offseason, in 2018, instead of two years ago?
Two years of higher production would put a lot more money in Kadri’s pocket. Again, this article is not to say that Kadri was underpaid when he signed the deal, but rather takes a look at how much he’d be worth if he was to have signed this past offseason instead.
Using some comparables, and yes, there are probably many others that could have been used as a baseline instead but these are some easy ones found on CapFriendly.com, this looks at how much other centres are paid per point, their age when they signed, etc and attempts to find what Kadri could have in 2018.
Below is a list of players, the first year of their contract, their age by December 31 of the first year of their contract, the term, how many points they averaged per 82 games the year before signing their contract, their career points per 82 games before signing and the ‘middle ground’ number between the two. This ‘middle ground’ is being used as a baseline for their production worth. In an article I did predicting William Nylander’s contract, this ‘middle ground’ and each player comparable’s AAV worked out to be pretty close to $100K per point. Centres are more expensive though so in this it’s more so being used to judge what money each point total gets.
The table also outlines the AAV on the contract, the percent of the cap it took up in the first year of the deal and the adjusted AAV if it took up the same percentage of the cap under this year’s $79.5M salary cap.
It’s also important to note that Kopitar and Backlund both signed their deals midway through the year, so their year point total/82 projection would come from their production in the games they played that year before signing.
|Name||First Year||Age||Term||Year||Career||Middle||AAV||Cap %||AAV
|J. Tavares||18-19||28||7 years||84.0||76.1||80.1||$11.00||0.1374||11.00|
|A. Kopitar||16-17||29||8 years||68.7||73.4||71.1||$10.00||0.1370||10.89|
|R. Johansen||17-18||25||8 years||61.0||54.5||57.8||$8.00||0.1067||8.48|
|R. O’Reilly||16-17||25||7 years||55.0||47.2||51.1||$7.50||0.1027||8.16|
|D. Stepan||15-16||25||6 years||66.3||57.1||61.7||$6.50||0.0910||7.23|
|P. Stastny||18-19||33||3 years||53.0||64.3||58.7||$6.50||0.0818||6.50|
|D. Brassard||14-15||27||5 years||45.6||45.8||45.7||$5.00||0.0725||5.76|
|M. Backlund||18-19||29||6 years||48.1||41.2||44.7||$5.35||0.0673||5.35|
For reference, Kadri had 313 points in 488 games after last season (averaging to 52.6/82 career games) and had 55 points in 80 games in the year he signed his contract (56.4/82 games that season). This works out to a ‘middle’ of 54.5 points.
You can take the AAV (percentage of cap it took when signed, applied to 2018-19) and the middle ground to find how much more than $100k/point each player was paid, written into the ‘overpayment’ column. Based on this, you can take Kadri’s ‘middle ground’ production and multiply it by the same ‘overpayment’ stat for each player, to see how much Kadri would get if he was paid the same amount per point.
|Name||18-19 AAV||Middle||Overpayment||Age||Kadri Comparable||AAV|
|O’Reilly||$8.16||51.1||1.5969||25||54.5 x 1.5969=||$8.70|
|Kopitar||$10.89||71.1||1.5316||29||54.5 x 1.5316=||$8.35|
|Johansen||$8.48||57.8||1.4671||25||54.5 x 1.4671=||$8.00|
|Tavares||$11.00||80.1||1.3580||28||54.5 x 1.3580=||$7.40|
|Brassard||$5.76||45.7||1.2604||27||54.5 x 1.2604=||$6.87|
|Backlund||$5.35||44.7||1.1969||29||54.5 x 1.1969=||$6.52|
|Stepan||$7.23||61.7||1.1718||25||54.5 x 1.1718=||$6.39|
|Turris||$6.00||52.8||1.1364||29||54.5 x 1.1364=||$6.19|
|Stastny||$6.50||58.7||1.1073||33||54.5 x 1.1073=||$6.03|
Looking at the comparables, Kadri’s range is would be between about $6 million on the low end, all the way up to $8.7o on the high end. To try and eliminate the large range, you can look at the circumstances surrounding each signing. For instance on the low end, Stastny is 33 by December 31 on the first year of his contract, so even with the short term, the contract carries a bit more of a risk with it, which explains why the cap hit is lower than it would be if Stastny was in his late 20s.
At the same time, Ryan O’Reilly and Ryan Johansen are being signed right as their prime is beginning at 25 years old and the contract expires right before they’ll be starting to decline, so the age they’re under contract for makes it more valuable, hence the higher overpayment rate.
With Tavares and Kopitar, you could argue that they have a higher overpayment rate because they’re the top centre on the team (I suppose Tavares falls behind Matthews, but would be a top centre on probably 25 other NHL teams and would want to be paid as such). Kadri isn’t a top centre, so his overpayment likely wouldn’t be as high as Tavares or Kopitar. Tavares was extremely sought after in free agency and Kopitar would have seen a similar situation if he had hit free agency, so naturally a team needs to pay more to sign their star.
The best comparables here are Mikael Backlund, Kyle Turris and Derick Brassard. They’re all around the same age when signed and had similar production. Backlund would put Kadri around the $6.50M AAV mark, while Turris’ comparable would come in around $6.20M and Brassard’s comparison would mean about $6.90M for Kadri.
However, if you were to take the average between all nine players from the table, Kadri would come in around $7.15M.
To add to this, something that would have Kadri around at least $7.00M instead, or even closer to the projection coming from the Tavares contract is the fact that James van Riemsdyk and Evander Kane both got $7.00M this year. This comes despite both having a middle ground between career point total and season point total very similar to Kadri’s. Centres are also more valuable and usually overpaid compared to wingers around a similar age and production level.
Even when Kadri signed his contract though, he took a pay cut. His career point per 82 total would have been 48.6 points, with the season before signing coming in at 49.6, creating a 49.1 point middle ground. At $4.50M AAV, if a contract taking that 0.0616 percentage of the cap was signed at today’s salary cap, Kadri would still only be making $4.9M, which is less than comparables like Backlund and Brassard, despite producing more.
Realistically, the low comparables here have Kadri down as far as $6.20M and maybe that’s the kind of pay cut Kadri could have taken to stay in Toronto, but that’s a low number. The highest applicable one may even be the Tavares projection at $7.40M which he may have got if he had hit free agency this offseason, but it would be an overpay.
To find the likely AAV for Kadri here, it would probably be around Backlund’s $6.50M projection on the low end to the comparable average at $7.15M on the high end for a six-year deal. Thankfully, that’s not a situation the Leafs had to deal with.