Is Trading for Nazem Kadri Anything More Than a Pipe Dream for New York Rangers?

Tom Urtz Jr.@@TomUrtzJrContributor IJanuary 1, 2014

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 8:  Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on during NHL game action against the Boston Bruins December 8, 2013 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
Graig Abel/Getty Images

Nazem Kadri is a talented forward with tremendous upside, and it is rather interesting that the Toronto Maple Leafs are looking to deal a potential No. 1 center. Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet broke the news on Monday that two NHL teams confirmed that Kadri is available for trade.

There have been trade rumors circulating that have linked the Maple Leafs to the New York Rangers' Michael Del Zotto, so is it possible that the two sides could get together and make a deal?

If the Leafs were truly willing to part with Kadri, it would be very possible for the Rangers to get a deal done. It would be more than a Del Zotto for Kadri swap, but both sides have enough pieces to iron out a fair deal.

The Rangers are in the market for a center, and it would make sense to add one sooner rather than later. Brad Richards is a likely buyout candidate, and his departure would leave a hole in the team's top six.

Although he is having a decent season, using the final compliance buyout to amnesty his contract makes fiscal sense for the future.

It may appear that the Blueshirts have a surplus of centers on their roster, but they lack someone with enough offensive talent to be a bona fide No. 1 guy.

Derek Stepan is an ideal No. 2 center, Derick Brassard is a decent No. 3 and J.T. Miller could be the Rangers' No. 4 center next season. They also have players such as Dominic Moore, Brian Boyle and Oscar Lindberg that could line up at center if the Rangers needed to include a center in a deal for Kadri.

That would leave the No. 1 spot open for Kadri, although Alain Vigneault could platoon both him and Stepan in that role.

During his NHL career to date, here is what Kadri has done.

Nazem Kadri's NHL Career To Date
SeasonGoalsAssistsPointsPoints Per GameT.O.I
The Hockey News

These numbers are pretty decent for a 23-year-old center on the rise. For the sake of comparison, Stepan is a career 0.6 point-per-game player, but this year he has regressed from the numbers he put up in 2012-13.

Nonetheless, having Kadri and Stepan would allow the Rangers' bench boss to maximize his top-six's potential, and it would help the Blueshirts be a stronger team offensively.

In order to acquire the Leafs' budding forward, it would cost the Rangers, but how much? If the Blueshirts enter negotiations with the Maple Leafs, they should try and extract more than Kadri from Canada's largest city.

The Rangers want to improve their blue line as well, so they should inquire about Jake Gardiner, a player the Leafs are willing to deal according to Larry Brooks of the New York Post

Gardiner is a 6'2", 182-pound defender that could be a great asset to the Blueshirts. The Hockey News describes Gardiner as a "Smart player with the puck. Skates well due to an effortless stride. Has offensive ability, likes to join the attack, and boasts all-round upside. Can quarterback a power play."

He would be a great fixture on the power play, and he could even be paired with former University of Wisconsin teammate Ryan McDonagh.

In order for the Maple Leafs to actual move Gardiner and Kadri in the same deal, the Blueshirts would have to make it worth general manager Dave Nonis' while. Rangers GM Glen Sather has the assets to do that, and he could offer two equally entertaining packages.

Here is what the packages could look like.

Option A:

New York Rangers receive [C] Nazem Kadri and [D] Jake Gardiner, 2014 second-round draft pick

Toronto Maple Leafs receive [D] Dan Girardi, [D] Michael Del Zotto and a 2013 fourth-round draft pick


Option B: 

New York Rangers receive [C] Nazem Kadri and [D] Jake Gardiner

Toronto Maple Leafs receive [D] Dan Girardi, [C] Derick Brassard and 2014 third-round draft pick

If this writer were in Dave Nonis' shoes, Option A would be the most enticing because Girardi would automatically add another minutes-eating defender to the corps, and Del Zotto would replace Gardiner's potential.

If the deal was made, this is what the Leafs blue line would look like.

Potential Defense Pairings for Toronto Maple Leafs
No. 1Carl GunnarssonDion Phaneuf
No. 2Cody FransonDan Girardi
No. 3Morgan RiellyMichael Del Zotto
Projected pairings if trade was made.

This would be an impressive grouping, but Nonis could choose to go in a different direction.

On the other hand, the Leafs may want to receive a center back in the deal, so Brassard would be an ideal top-nine center to fit in the Maple Leafs lineup.

Either way, the deal is fair for both sides. In either deal, the Rangers strengthen their offense by adding Kadri, and they bolster the youth on their blue line by acquiring Gardiner. They would be parting with UFA-to-be Girardi and the enigmatic Del Zotto, but you need to give in order to get.

The Blueshirts would only lose one defenseman in the deal because they'd receive one back, and here is what their pairings would look like.

Potential Defense Pairings for New York Rangers
No. 1Jake GardinerRyan McDonagh
No. 2Marc StaalAnton Stralman
No. 3Conor AllenJohn Moore
Projected pairings if trade was made.

All of this is speculation, but there appears to be enough traction to get a deal done. Currently the Leafs have some injury concerns at center, so don't expect anything instant.

However, once they get a bit healthier down the middle, don't be surprised if Nonis and Sather get together to make a deal. Both teams have had their ups and downs this season, and making a major move before the Olympics could be just what each team needs to get on track.


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