Nazem Kadri has all the time seen himself as a No. 1 centre, however he’d don’t have any drawback being No. three on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ depth chart this season after the addition of John Tavares.
Toronto strengthened itself up the center July 1 by signing free-agent Tavares to a seven-year, $77-million US deal. The 27-year-old Mississauga, Ont., native had 272 targets and 621 factors over 9 seasons with the New York Islanders.
The addition of Tavares (37 targets, 47 assists final season) leaves Toronto three-deep at centre with younger star Auston Matthews (34 targets, 29 assists) and Kadri (32 targets, 23 assists). If Tavares’ arrival pushes Kadri to the third line, the 27-year-old London, Ont., native can be fine with it.
“Successful is a very powerful factor to me,” Kadri stated Tuesday previous to collaborating within the NHLPA Basic at Glen Abbey Golf Membership in Oakville, Ont. “I do know that’s possibly a cliche however that’s just the trustworthy reality.
“I do not care the place I play, I do not care what role I play. Clearly I need to be an affect participant and proceed to have the success I am having . . . on the finish of the day our final objective is to win a Stanley Cup and convey that to town of Toronto so we’re all going to be on the identical web page.”
Kadri believes with Tavares, few groups can match Toronto’s depth at centre.
“Not so certain,” he stated. “There’s undoubtedly some good centremen on the market however we’re attempting to generate some chemistry between the three of us.
“Hopefully we glance to be on the facility play collectively and we’ll see the way it works.”
Toronto (49-26-7, 105 factors) completed third within the Atlantic Division final season however was eradicated within the first spherical of the Jap Convention playoffs in seven video games by the Boston Bruins. Regardless of that setback, right-winger Connor Brown stated it will likely be exhausting for the Leafs to shock opponents this season.
“Two years in the past we have been sort of sneaking up on groups and final yr everybody was a bit of bit extra ready,” he stated. “You are going to get everybody’s greatest and so you have to convey your greatest every single day.
“It (seven-game playoff loss) is a troublesome factor to undergo for town and the followers but additionally as a participant. However you have to management the controllables and all you are able to do is put collectively one thing higher the following time.”
The prospect of taking part in alongside three top-flight centres this season definitely excites the six-foot, 185-pound Brown.
“These guys, they’re all very dynamic and so it does not matter who you get,” he stated. “You are going to have a very good centreman and often that’s a recipe for fulfillment.”
A reality not misplaced upon centre Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks, who have been additionally within the operating for Tavares.
“To seek out three centremen like that is hard,” he stated of the Leafs’ trio. “They will be robust to match up in opposition to for groups, particularly in their very own division.
“There are a whole lot of good centremen however to search out these three on the identical crew, that’s spectacular.”
New Jersey ahead Taylor Corridor, the NHL’s most beneficial participant final season, stated the acquisition of Tavares provides Toronto head coach Mike Babcock loads of choices.
“There’s going to be some mismatches for certain,” stated Corridor, who went first total to Edmonton within the 2010 NHL entry draft. “You will in all probability see them have an excellent house document with Babcock with the ability to match up and actually have the gamers he needs on the market.
“He (Tavares) went there as a result of they are a robust crew, they’ve a shiny future. I believe everybody sees that.”
Tavares has been skating with his new teammates this week and left-winger Josh Leivo stated Tavares’ work ethic is contagious.
“It is just motivating us to work even more durable,” Leivo stated. “He works actually exhausting so I believe he pushes us much more within the health club.
“It is thrilling to have him on our crew.”
Teammates in junior
The transfer reunites Tavares with Kadri, who have been teammates with the OHL’s London Knights. Kadri stated the largest enchancment in Tavares’ recreation has been his skating capacity.
“Proper from the start he was so gifted, he was just so significantly better than everybody else,” Kadri stated. “His palms and hockey sense have been just off the charts.
“However he’s labored on his skating since I noticed him just lately and clearly performed in opposition to him the previous couple of years. It has been an enormous enchancment for him.”
Tavares will not be the lone new face this season for a Toronto crew that’s minus six gamers from final yr, together with ahead James van Riemsdyk. A 36-goal scorer final season, van Riemsdyk signed a $35-million, five-year free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Kadri stated Toronto will miss van Riemsdyk this season.
“He’s just a natural-born scorer and that presence was very annoying for opposing groups to play in opposition to,” he stated. “He was the total package deal.
“JVR is an effective participant and I could not be happier for him.”