Kadri's agent loves draft drama

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

The NHL draft-day drama remains so fresh.

London hockey agent Brian MacDonald of Siskinds Sports Management was sitting alongside his Knights client Nazem Kadri's sizable clan at Montreal's Bell Centre in June.

Suddenly, Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray whipped past toward the Toronto Maple Leafs table, obviously to try to swing a last-minute deal with Buds boss Brian Burke.

"That was exciting," MacDonald said, reflecting on the first round nail-biter. "We knew the Leafs were really high on Nazem so we were waiting to see which way it went (with Toronto and the seventh pick) and it always takes two sides to make a deal."

And, often, a lot of ups and downs along the way.

Shortly after the draft, MacDonald and Toronto assistant GM Jeff Jackson hammered out the details of a three-year entry-level contract for Kadri. The 18-year-old Londoner was the first of his draft class to sign last month.

It was a monumental moment for the talented forward.

"It's special," Kadri said yesterday morning at the Western Fair Sports Centre after skating with the Knights' alumni team preparing to play in next week's Euro Can Cup.

"It's your first contract so it's a big thing. I'm doing everything I can to be ready when I go to training camp on Sept. 4, because I know what a crucial year this is for me."

As entry-level contracts go, it was fairly straightforward.

"There's some flexibility on entry-level deals (between picks one and 10)," MacDonald said, "but with the salary cap, you know what John (Tavares) is getting (near $900,000), you know what the signing bonus ($90,000) is and work off that.

"There's room to increase the bonuses," he added. "But a lot of those are so difficult to trigger (one, for example, is making an NHL all-star team and another being nominated for an end-of-season award) that it doesn't make sense to haggle over that stuff."

Especially since Kadri is already thought to be an easy off-ice sell.

Kadri has been trumpeted as a new face of hockey, a Canadian of Lebanese heritage and a Muslim. That is expected to play well in multicultural Toronto.

Most marketing firms categorize sports teams into A, B and C markets. Kadri now belongs to one of the biggest A brands in hockey.

"We're talking to some companies right now," MacDonald said. "We're looking at what makes the most sense."

This was also a big contract for MacDonald, a former Colorado Avalanche employee, and the Siskinds team.

The London law firm jumped into the agency fray a half-decade ago and, after missing the boat on many top 1989-born players, had Kadri among their originals in the 1990 class.

"Nazem has been with us since his minor-midget year with the London Junior Knights," MacDonald said, "before he was drafted (in the OHL's first round) by Kitchener. Yes, his name will help (in recruiting additional players) but we've worked for others, too. We have (Knight) Zac Rinaldo (who signed with Philly) and (Plymouth goalie) Matt Hackett, who we couldn't get a tryout a couple of years ago and now he's a third-round pick (of the Minnesota Wild) and trying out for the Canadian world junior team."

The first prize in the Siskinds stable, everyone expected, would be John Tavares. But when agent Bryan Deasley left the firm last year, the Tavares group dropped out, too, and opted for Pat Brisson, who handles fellow No. 1's Sidney Crosby and Pat Kane.

Kadri didn't budge.

He stuck by Siskinds, saying he wouldn't let someone else (a future Knights teammate) dictate his own business.

"Brian's a good agent and a good friend," he said. "You can go through some loops during a season and it's how you get through it that counts. Brian and my family were the ones I could lean on the most."

He was cut from the world junior team with a broken jaw last year. He was back at Canada's orientation camp in Saskatoon last week.

The difficult next step involves helping an 18-year-old act like he's 25. Kadri's immediate goal is to earn the contract he signed at the Air Canada Centre this season.

"That will be based on performance," MacDonald said. "Brian Burke has said that all along. Nazem has to make an impression."

As a forward with the scoring-challenged Leafs, it's not impossible.

Former Knight Corey Perry offered Kadri some advice on playing for Burke.

"Stay on his good side," said the dead-serious Duck, who played under the current Leafs GM while both were in Anaheim.


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