#AskCJ NHL Mailbag: Kadri's future, Giordano signing dominoes, & more!
Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri on May 9, 2022. Photo by Mark Humphrey/AP.

The flowers are blooming, the Stanley Cup Playoffs are heating up and the off-season is drawing tantalizingly close.

Hockey fans have a lot of different places to direct their energy these days, which was reflected in the variety of #AskCJ questions our latest call for queries garnered. A number of you seem to have food on the mind these days, too.

Without further ado, here’s the inaugural edition of the #AskCJ mailbag…

Of all the teams who were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, who do you think would have had the most success in the second round IF they had advanced, and why? - @DrzInTheMorning

This basically comes down to a choice between the teams that lost a Game 7, and among that group, Toronto and Boston stand out as the strongest possibilities.

In fact, Brad Marchand made a comment to reporters that the Bruins felt like they were primed for a long run if they could get past a tough Carolina team. It would be understandable if any of the Leafs felt the same way about their matchup with Tampa.

Remember Toronto was ahead 3-2 in the series and leading the Lightning 3-2 in the third period of Game 6. And Tampa hasn’t looked back since rallying for an overtime win that night.

My apologies, Leafs fans: This is another what-could-have-been year. In my view, they would have had the most success if they’d advanced past Round 1.

Does (Mark Giordano) signing for so little change your perspective on who else may stay or go for the Leafs? - @redslewnninja

It doesn’t change my perspective, no, but it was a tidy bit of business for Kyle Dubas and the Leafs. The $800,000 AAV on Giordano’s new contract is arguably the most significant/impactful hometown discount we’ve seen anywhere in the NHL in recent memory.

The team now has left shots Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin and Giordano under contract for next season and will almost certainly sign Rasmus Sandin as an RFA, too.

That could make Muzzin expendable in a potential cap-clearing move, although it’s worth noting the guy is beloved inside the organization. The Leafs didn’t want to part with Sandin at the trade deadline so it’s hard to imagine them sending him elsewhere on the cusp of his age-22 season.

Game 4 Flames vs. Oilers picks: Click here

You’re currently 1-0 in your Staying or Going predictions for the Leafs. How ya feelin’? - @Steve_Dangle

Hi Steve. I’m just giving it 110%, taking it one prediction at a time… and hoping no one is actually keeping a hard count on the answers I provided on your podcast.

Predicting that Giordano would be staying in Toronto was a fairly straightforward call. There’s much more grey to be found in the Leafs other decisions. We’ll see.

Which NHL free agent are we not talking about enough going to a new team? - @dkgingerdude

Johnny Gaudreau, come on down!! The fact that someone put up 100-plus points for a Canadian team in a potential walk year and it hasn’t turned into more of a circus is a bit surprising.

Credit to the team and player for keeping contract talks in the background.

The Flames would love to extend Gaudreau, but the 28-year-old winger holds the cards. His focus is entirely on trying to win the Stanley Cup right now but it won’t be long before he’ll be deciding if he’s relocating from the stampede grounds.

Hi CJ, where do you see Nazem Kadri signing this off-season? - @MWBower

It’s difficult to imagine the Avalanche finding the cap space needed to retain Kadri after the best offensive season of his career.

The veteran centre is coming off a deal where he outperformed the $4.5-million annual salary. He’ll rightfully be asking for a raise, so the most likely landing spots are teams with financial flexibility.

This isn’t a firm prediction, but remember that Kadri was raised by a devout Montreal Canadiens fan. That would be a spicy landing spot for the former heart-and-soul Maple Leaf.

Several teams will be calling.

Where does Filip Forsberg sign in UFA? - @HarrisBarnes24

I don’t have a crystal ball, but I am surprised this player hasn’t already inked an extension with the Predators.

He’s coming off a monster year and loves playing in Nashville. There have been plenty of contract discussions with the Predators. The salary range even looks obvious because of the team’s internal structure – somewhere between the $8-million earned by Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene and the $9.059-million committed to Roman Josi.

Surely he stays put, no?

When will Shea Weber be off the books? - @Vasilios_45

The technical answer to this question is after the 2025-26 season.

But with Weber unable to continue his career due to injury and the Canadiens not wanting to spend years operating in long-term injured reserve, they discussed a potential trade that involved his contract with Arizona this season.

That deal didn’t materialize, but it’s reasonable to expect Montreal to look for others like it moving forward. There just aren’t that many teams looking to take on dead contracts covering multiple seasons in a flat-cap league.

With your main focus on the NHL, do you have any energy left for keeping an eye on the World Championships in Finland? - @FilipKowalski2

Yes, I’ve got a soft spot for this event after covering it seven times earlier in my career. I’ve been watching games most mornings in my time zone.

Finland looks like it will be awfully tough to beat on home ice. It’s simply amazing to see the strides that the country has taken at the top level of men’s international hockey.

Has there been any talk about the ability of Russian players being able to take the Stanley Cup to their hometown etc...? - @Lucas_WildFan

There’s not a lot of talk, no, but at this point, it seems unlikely that we’ll see the Stanley Cup visit Russia as part of the champion’s tour this summer.

That’s an ongoing situation, though.

And there’s no guarantee the team that wins will have a Russian player on its roster.

I’m a leafs fan from southern california, going to visit toronto for the first time in a few weeks! any hockey and non-hockey related suggestions for what to do?! - @localhockeyfan

No trip to Toronto would be complete without a stop by the Hockey Hall of Fame. You should also take a swing through Maple Leaf Square to check out the Legends Row statues.

If you’re looking for something a little more off the beaten path, the Loblaws on Carlton St. includes a spot marking where centre ice once was at Maple Leaf Gardens.

As for non-hockey recommendations, you can’t go wrong with a visit to centre island. Enjoy!!

So when you are a young player on a team..what age are you then considered a veteran? What amount of years makes you a vet?? - @p_mutart

I think players start to be considered a veteran inside the team environment once they’re on their second NHL contract. However, full “veteran” status isn’t truly awarded until after a player has accrued seven professional seasons, which is when he earns the right to unrestricted free agency.

Who in your opinion is the best player on the PGA tour right now? - @thedansell1

It’s got to be Scottie Scheffler. Even with his missed cut at the PGA Championship, I can’t look past the four victories in 2022. I was pulling for Rory McIlroy over the weekend – surely he’s got more majors in him.

Photo by Eric Gay/AP.

When you were in Tampa, where did you go running? Did you ever make your way over to Bayshore Blvd?- @Boltx_7

Yes I did a couple of runs along Bayshore and also hit the Tampa Riverwalk. The humidity was punishing, but the views were spectacular. The biggest highlight was seeing a dolphin in the water near the Museum of Art.

In a fight to the end in a neutral space, which would win: a silverback gorilla or a brown bear? - @reeb_luke

I’d never bet against the brown bear. That thing has claws and could make quick work of pretty much anything.

Best Disney movie ever? - @emmy1717

The Mighty Ducks was a massive favourite for young CJ. In fact, the second-best Disney film might be Mighty Ducks 2. Quack, quack, quack!

Do you ever dip your pizza in garlic sauce? - @MechanizedChaos

Wait, is there a world where someone might answer no to this question? If there’s a garlic dip at hand, it’s getting both my pizza and crust splashed through it. No shame.

Top 3 favourite flavours of ice cream? - @lacygracy01

Vanilla. Sea Salt Caramel. Cookies ‘n Cream.

I’ll be taking no further questions on the matter at this time.

What’s your favourite restaurant around the league? - @DanKnightly

There are so many potential directions to take this question with elite eating cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But my personal favourite is Bern’s Steak House in Tampa. Fantastic food, the world’s largest wine collection and an unforgettable dining experience every time.

If the Lightning get back to another Stanley Cup Final, I’ll find my way back to their dining room.

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