Nazem Kadri reflects on time in Toronto: 'I wish it ended on better terms'

Thomas Williams
Hockey writer
The former Toronto forward reflected on his nine seasons donning the blue and white. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

On Saturday night, Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri hosted his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in an emotional first matchup following the blockbuster trade between the two clubs over the summer.

The 29-year-old forward sat down with David Amber ahead of the contest and reflected on his time as a Maple Leaf.

He provided an honest answer to every question about his tenure in Toronto, including revealing details about the impersonal way he found out he was traded to Colorado.

“I felt like I deserved a little bit better after 10 years. Maybe a face-to-face conversation or something,” Kadri said.

On July 1, Kadri and defenceman Calle Rosen became members of the Avalanche, with forward Alexander Kerfoot and defenceman Tyson Barrie heading to the Leafs.

Always involved in trade speculation, — especially following Toronto’s acquisition of John Tavares — Kadri reportedly denied a move that would have sent him to the Calgary Flames.

Since the forward’s current contract includes a no-trade clause, he was able to supply the Leafs with a no-trade list and Calgary was one of the teams on it.

Despite this fact, the proposition of playing with the Flames still lead the forward to seriously pause and think.

“It was actually very close,” Kadri said of considering a move to Calgary. “They put a good pitch together and even though they were on the no-trade list, it was very tempting from a hockey standpoint. Obviously, I nixed the trade in hopes I was going to stay a Maple Leaf. That was kind of where my heart was, and next thing you know, I’m in Denver.”

The seventh-overall pick in 2009, Kadri had spent his entire career with the Leafs before the trade. He made it clear that Toronto was where he wanted to spend the majority of his career.

But consecutive first-round playoff exits meant that there was some change needed — especially since Kadri played himself out of the 2019 series against the Boston Bruins after doing the exact same in 2018.

Last postseason, he was suspended five games for a dangerous cross-check on forward Jake DeBrusk, adding fuel for the trade rumours to continue.

Kadri feels that this suspension was a major reason why the trade eventually happened.

“Obviously it had something to do with it,” he said. “It was a tough lesson learned. Looking back on it, I wish my career with Toronto had not have come to that sort of ending. I wish it ended on better terms, but it was obviously a stupid decision that I didn’t expect to turn out the way it did. And that’s something that I just have to live with.”

After the eventual Game 7 loss, blame was laid on Kadri’s suspension and he’s aware of the theory that the Maple Leafs would have reached the second round if he was involved.

“I’m going to have to agree, I was playing well. I thought I was playing some of my best hockey in that series,” Kadri said.

“I did some stupid things, in terms of on the ice, that I wish I could take back. And I really wish I had a shot at redemption, but the fact of the matter was, I wasn’t given that chance. I can constantly say how grateful and thankful I am that the city of Toronto embraced my culture and who I was, and the type of player I was. That’s something I’ll never forget.”

Beyond the regret, Kadri understands why the trade was made from a management point of view, but it hasn’t detracted from his confidence in himself.

“The players they traded for, Kerfoot and Barrie, those are great players, and I would love to have those guys on my team,” Kadri said.

“But I’d also like to have a guy like myself on my team as well.”

There is no denying that this trade will be debated for years to come. Giving up a well-rounded player like Kadri for some positional need was the basic understanding when the trade was made and this narrative has been maintained through a quarter of the season.

Ahead of the first matchup since the deal, the decade-long Maple Leaf was excited to face his former team.

“I’m going to be fired up for it,” Kadri said. “I know a lot of guys on that team, so I think once the puck drops, I’m going to have to play my game regardless of who it is.

“Certainly going to be a bizarre feeling.”

Prior to Saturday’s contest, Kadri had seven goals and 15 points through 22 games.

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