Nazem Kadri has just 99 games of NHL experience, so while he might have been negotiating a salary based on his strong season last year (18-26-44 in 48 games), the Maple Leafs were clearly negotiating on a slightly longer period of time. They signed Kadri to a two-year bridge contract at a cap hit of $2.9 million. This is a little bit more than P.K. Subban got during his bridge contract that led into a Norris Trophy.
Before anyone gets excited thinking there are any NHL awards in Kadri's future, Subban had a longer time of service in the NHL than Kadri did, with a heavier body of work. Kadri, in 2010-2011 (29 games) and 2011-2012 (21 games), had issues sticking with the NHL club despite an obvious talent set. His breakout year was a solid showing, but it shouldn't be taken as proof that will be his level of performance every season from here on out.
The Leafs had to be pragmatic. There's no harm in Kadri holding out for either a long term deal or a lot of money, since it's his future and he needs to look out for it. But this isn't the Leafs hard balling him. This is the Leafs giving him a chance to really prove himself for a bigger payday in the future. If Kadri plays his cards right, this could be a win-win for both parties involved.