Rick Zamperin: Still too early to anoint a winner in the Nazem Kadri deal

Colorado Avalanche center Nazem Kadri played his first game in Toronto after spending 10 years with the Maple Leafs. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

Former Toronto Maple Leafs super pest Nazem Kadri made an emotional return to Scotiabank Arena Wednesday night, when the Colorado Avalanche landed in town.

The 29-year-old London, Ont. native spent the first 10 years of his National Hockey League career under the white-hot light of Toronto and never shied away from it, for better or worse.

He scored 161 goals and added 196 assists in 561 career games with the Leafs, who drafted him seventh overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, but was traded in the off-season to Colorado (along with defensive prospect Calle Rosen and a third-round draft pick in 2020) for defenceman Tyson Barrie, centre Alexander Kerfoot and a six-round draft pick in 2020.

READ MORE: Barrie leads Maple Leafs past Avalanche 5-3

About a third of the way through the season, which team has the edge in this deal?

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Entering Wednesday’s game, Kadri had 10 goals and 10 assists in 26 games with the Avalanche, he’s played alongside leading scorer Nathan MacKinnon and he has filled in admirably for injured stars Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.

Rosen hasn’t been much of a factor this season, registering just one assist in three games with Colorado.

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Barrie had a horrid start to the 2019-20 season (3 goals, 9 assists in 29 games) but has played better since the Leafs replaced Mike Babcock with new head coach Sheldon Keefe.

Kerfoot has amassed five goals and three assists in 24 games this year while battling through an injury and a suspension.

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Given the small sample size, the jury is still deliberating a verdict.

Looking down the road, the Avalanche have Kadri under a salary cap-friendly contract for two more seasons after this year, while the Leafs have Kerfoot locked up until 2022-23 for a very reasonable dollar amount.

The key tipping point will come if Barrie decides to bolt after this season when he becomes a free agent.

Should Toronto stumble in the playoffs — if they get there — and Barrie departs, Kadri and the Av’s will have the last laugh.

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