By FeedCrossing
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The Toronto Maple Leafs defused a potential major headache on Tuesday when they signed young forward Nazem Kadri to a new two-year deal worth a total of $5.8 million.

The contract was agreed to the night before the Leafs were set to open training camp and the restricted free agent had threatened to sit out unless he was under contract. The London, Ontario native will now report to camp at the Air Canada Centre with the rest of his Toronto teammates.

The club has invited 59 players to camp, however restricted free agent defenseman Cody Franson is still unsigned.

Kadri, who will likely center the team’s second line, was looking for a longer term at more money, but general manager Dave Nonis managed to talk him into taking a shorter deal for the time being as the Leafs are dangerously close to the NHL’s salary cap limit.

Kadri was drafted by former general manager Brian Burke with the seventh pick overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. However, for the first three seasons he spent most of his time with the club’s American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, where he scored at a point per game clip.

The 22-year-old finally cracked the starting lineup last season and was one of the team’s top performers in the shortened 48-game campaign. He managed to score 44 points in 48 games on his 18 goals and 26 assists. He helped the Leafs make the playoffs for the first time in eight years, even though his ice time was lower than most NHL players with similar scoring stats.

Nonis felt he had enough salary cap space to sign both Kadri and Franson, but that has yet to be seen.

The 26-year-old Franson will be offered what’s left in cap space, but he could also be traded and there’s a possibility that he will sit out training camp until he comes to a contract agreement with the Leafs. The Leafs realized they couldn’t afford to start the season without Kadri and allow his development to stagnate.

He now has two seasons to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. However, he’ll now be faced with a full 82-game schedule this year and it will be interesting to see if he has the stamina to keep up the pace towards the end of it.

Kadri scored the majority of his 44 points during the first half of last season. He has played just 99 career regular season games in the league and has 63 points on 26 goals and 37 assists. He also has a goal and three assists in seven playoff contests.

The Maple Leafs invited 27-year-old free agent Mason Raymond to training camp on a pro tryout contract just to give them some depth in case they failed to reach an agreement with the Kadri camp.

Raymond has some speed and played the last few seasons with the Vancouver Canucks. Nonis said Dave Bolland could also play center ice in case Kadri didn’t show up to camp. However, that problem has now been solved, at least for the next two years.


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