More on the Nazem Kadri circus, the Sharks and Flames could target cap-strapped teams in the off-season plus an update on Antti Niemi.

The Kadri circus. 

Does Nazem Kadri's recent three-game suspension mark the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Maple Leafs?

Does Nazem Kadri’s recent three-game suspension mark the beginning of the end of his tenure with the Maple Leafs?

SPORTSNET: Mike Johnston cites colleague Doug MacLean’s belief the Toronto Maple Leafs have mishandled Nazem Kadri in their public disciplining of the young center for apparent off-ice incidents. MacLean feels the situation could affect Kadri’s contract talks this summer with the Leafs. The center is a restricted free agent and MacLean speculates he could seek a five-year extension worth in the “$5 million per season range.” MacLean believes team president Brendan Shanahan’s recent comments about Kadri hurts the youngster’s trade value if the Leafs were to shop him.

TSN.CA: Jonas Siegel notes Kadri is the Leafs’ best puck-possession player and second-best even-strength producer. He’s also perhaps the most skilled player in the organization who is improving year-by-year and the only high-end center with room to grow.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Shanahan says he believes Kadri has a future with the Leafs and that this recent benching is to send a message to the young center that’s it’s time to grow up. Kadri could in the offseason and demands a trade, make contract demands so unrealistic the Leafs have no choice but to move him, or the Leafs receive a trade offer too good to refuse. Still,  I doubt they’ll seriously consider moving him. They’re engaging in a rebuild and likely want to keep as many of their good young players as possible.  I disagree with MacLean’s assessment that this situation hurts Kadri’s trade value. If anything, it could prompt some rival GMs to inquire into Kadri’s availability. You can bet there are some GMs who believe Kadri could benefit away from the Toronto hothouse. 

Latest on the Sharks and Flames.

NICHOLS ON HOCKEY: Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman believes teams with plenty of cap space, like the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames, could target this summer’s cap-strapped teams (Chicago Blackhawks, LA Kings, New York Rangers) who face shedding salary to become cap compliant for next season.

SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS: David Pollak recently reported a group of Sharks players met with GM Doug Wilson before the recent trade deadline voicing support for starting goalie Antti Niemi, who was the subject of trade speculation leading up to the deadline. Niemi was grateful for the support and has been playing better of late. He’s an unrestricted free agent in July and claims he’s more focused on the remainder of this season, though he admits his agent and Wilson probably spoke about his future.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Keep an eye on the Sharks and Flames this summer, as they’ll likely employ what The Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle called “the vulture strategy.” If the Sharks decide to let Niemi walk via free agency they’ll be in the market for a goaltender. They could target the Rangers’ Cam Talbot, the Kings’ Martin Jones and the Blackhawks’ Antti Raanta. They’ll also be in the market for defensive depth. The Flames could seek more size up front or depth on their third defense pairing.