As my colleague Cory Buck pointed out last week, there are a lot of available restricted free agents the Buffalo Sabres should be looking at since they don’t seem to be sold on Cody Hodgson. With training camp opening in a few days, the Sabres and Hodgson have yet to come to terms on a deal that will keep him in blue and gold. Undoubtedly, Hodgson is asking for more than he’s worth and a long-term deal, but what young player isn’t these days? Instead of wasting time and playing hardball with Hodgson, Darcy Regier would be better off to give an offer-sheet to another top restricted free agent. This would let Hodgson know that he can be replaced and force another team to eat up cap space to keep their player. The perfect player for Regier to pursue is Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri, who is determined to wait for the money he wants.
Kadri and the Leafs appear no where near close to closing a deal and it’s getting to the point where Kadri has threatened to sit out
training camp. To be honest, I’m not sure why Regier hasn’t gone after the former prized Leafs prospect already, it would really screw the Leafs and bring a stellar young centre to Buffalo. Do the Buffalo Sabres need another centre? No. But you could argue that Kadri would be an improvement over Hodgson as the first line centre. Kadri is good and has tons of upside, likely more than Hodgson will ever reach. Nazem Kadri has the potential to be a very special young player, while he has some attitude problems, he may be worth the risk and they can trade Hodgson for another solid prospect.
During the lockout-shortened last season Kadri put up 44 points in 48 games while averaging just 16 minutes of ice-time and playing primarily on the third line. While the experience for Kadri is lacking having played fewer than 100 games, he’s showed he can be a solid NHL player putting up 6o points in his 99 games. Kadri was a huge part of the reason the Leafs made it back to the postseason and while he had some trouble producing in his first playoff series, he’s got his feet wet and shouldn’t have that problem much longer. Kadri was taken 7th overall in 2009 and has faced much scrutiny since being drafted, he’s never been able to live up to the hype.
The great news for the Sabres with $10.5 million in cap, if they play their cards right they could keep both Kadri and Hodgson on the roster. They can also open up some cap space with a Ryan Miller or Thomas Vanek trade. The Leafs have less than $5 million left in cap space and have two restricted agents to sign in Kadri and Cody Franson. Kadri is asking for something around $5.5 million over 5/6 years, but he needs to realize he’s not going to get that from anyone, but the Sabres could send him an offer for 6 years between $4.5 million- $5 million per to set up their future perfectly. The Sabres could also sign Hodgson with the left over money and would have their centers and forwards locked up long-term. Unfortunately if Kadri accepts an offer-sheet the Sabres would be losing some draft picks as compensation, but this isn’t a strong draft year and with Nazem Kadri, Cody Hodgson, Mikhail Grigorenko, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller the Sabres should be able to stay out of the bottom 3. Just by giving Kadri an offer-sheet, the Leafs would be screwed. They’re right up against the cap and would be forced to hand him at least $4.5 million to keep their young star.
Nazem Kadri is between a rock and a hard place. Either he accepts a two year “bridge” deal with the Leafs or heads elsewhere as the Leafs don’t seem to be budging on the contract. Right now no other team has approached Kadri with an offer, so he may jump at the first deal he gets if it’s better than what the Leafs are offering. If Darcy Regier offered Kadri a 6 year deal at $4.5 million it would put him at the $27 million mark which should be enough to put a smile on Kadri’s face. With the other young players and Ron Rolston, a coach who has been able to get the best out of young players, Kadri would fit right in and wouldn’t have to deal with any insane media. Giving an offer-sheet to Nazem Kadri is a win-win for Buffalo. Either they get a promising young player or screw a divisional rival with the cap. The Sabres want to re-build and locking up a player with Kadri’s potential would be a huge step in the right direction. Could you imagine a line-up that see’s Cody Hodgson, Nazem Kadri and Mikhail Grigorenko as the top three centres?