By DAN RALPH
THE CANADIAN PRESS
Thursday, July 12, 2018
OAKVILLE, ONT. -- Nazem Kadri has always seen himself as a No. 1 centre, but he'd have no problem being No. 3 on the Toronto Maple Leafs' depth chart this season after the addition of John Tavares.
Toronto strengthened itself up the middle on July 1 by signing free-agent Tavares to a sevenyear, US$77-million deal. The 27year-old Mississauga native had 272 goals and 621 points over nine seasons with the New York Islanders.
The addition of Tavares (37 goals, 47 assists last season) leaves Toronto three deep at centre with young star Auston Matthews (34 goals, 29 assists) and Kadri (32 goals, 23 assists). If Tavares's arrival pushes Kadri to the third line, the 27-year-old London, Ont., native would be fine with it.
"Winning is the most important thing to me," Kadri said Tuesday prior to participating in the NHLPA Classic at Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ont. "I know that's maybe a cliché but that's just the honest truth.
"I don't care where I play, I don't care what role I play. Obviously I want to be an impact player and continue to have the success I'm having. ... At the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to win a Stanley Cup and bring that to the city of Toronto, so we're all going to be on the same page."
Kadri believes with Tavares, few teams can match Toronto's depth at centre.
"Not so sure," he said. "There's definitely some good centremen out there, but we're trying to generate some chemistry between the three of us.
"Hopefully we look to be on the power play together and we'll see how it works."
Toronto (49-26-7, 105 points) finished third in the Atlantic Division last season but was eliminated in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs in seven games by the Boston Bruins. Despite that setback, right winger Connor Brown said it will be hard for the Leafs to surprise opponents this season.
"Two years ago, we were kind of sneaking up on teams and last year everyone was a little bit more prepared," he said. "You're going to get everyone's best and so you've got to bring your best every day. It [seven-game playoff loss] is a tough thing to go through for the city and the fans, but also as a player. But you've got to control the controllables and all you can do is put together something better the next time."
The prospect of playing alongside three top-flight centres this season certainly excites the sixfoot, 185-pound Brown.
"Those guys, they're all very dynamic and so it doesn't matter who you get," he said. "You're going to have a good centreman and usually that's a recipe for success."