Heading into this year’s free agency, one of the best players available was Nazem Kadri, and over two weeks later, he remains up for grabs. It is a rather shocking development given that it seemed to everyone as though teams would be in a bidding war for the 31-year-old, with the winning team likely overpaying him by a wide margin.
It appears those thoughts were misjudged, however, likely in large part due to the flat salary cap as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of getting the huge deal he anticipated, Kadri remains on the market, and no one seems to have a clear sense of where he will end up. With that said, here are three destinations that make plenty of sense for him to end up.
Given how long he has been on the market, one has to wonder if Kadri is simply waiting on Joe Sakic and the Colorado Avalanche to clear cap space in order to re-sign him. Since coming over to the Avs in a trade during the 2019 offseason, Kadri’s play has excelled, particularly in 2021-22, where he recorded a career-high 87 points in just 71 games.
Kadri played a huge role in the Avs Stanley Cup championship this year, as he was not only fantastic in the regular season, as mentioned but was able to score seven goals and 15 points in 16 playoff outings. He undoubtedly makes them a better team, and bringing him back would increase their already great odds of winning back-to-back Cups.
What makes things difficult in regards to adding Kadri is that the Avalanche currently have just over $3.9 million in cap space, which won’t be enough to bring him back into the fold. However, they could look to trade a current roster player to free up some space. One potential candidate could be Samuel Girard, who has five years remaining on a deal with a cap hit of $5 million. The Avs proved they could get things done without him this past year as he missed the majority of the playoffs with a broken sternum. That said, his terrific offensive abilities from the back end should be more than enough to draw interest from several teams if Sakic does indeed choose to go down this route.
After losing Johnny Gaudreau, it appeared the Calgary Flames may be heading for a rebuild. Once it became evident that Matthew Tkachuk was also on his way out of town, things appeared to look very ugly for this franchise. However, Brad Treliving was able to pull a rabbit out of his hat, acquiring Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt and a conditional first-round pick from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Tkachuk. This move shows the Flames have no interest in a rebuild and has most believing they will be very competitive once again in 2022-23.
One area the Flames could use some improvement in, however, is their center ice depth. As of now, Mikael Backlund is pencilled in to be in the top six, though he is much better suited in a third-line role. Adding Kadri to the mix would ensure that would happen and would solidify the Flames as serious Cup contenders.
Many have pointed to the fact that Kadri did indeed nix a trade to the Flames during the 2019 offseason, though he is on record saying he did so solely because he wanted to remain a Maple Leaf. If the Flames call his agent with a legitimate offer, you can bet he would give it serious consideration at this time.
New York Islanders
One under-the-radar team that makes a ton of sense for Kadri to sign with is the New York Islanders. This is a team who, despite a very disappointing 2021-22 season, is expected to be very competitive once again in 2022-23. Even in some of their recently successful seasons, however, one thing they lacked was offense, and Kadri would undoubtedly provide a boost in that regard.
The naysayers in regards to the Islanders targeting Kadri will suggest that the Isles already have their two top-six centers in Brock Nelson and Mat Barzal. While that is true, there is nothing to suggest that either aren’t capable of playing on the wing. It particularly makes more sense in Barzal’s case, as he would be able to get more creative on the wing while having to worry less about his play in the defensive zone.
As of now, the Islanders have over $11 million in cap space, though they do have some restricted free agents in Noah Dobson, Alexander Romanov and Kieffer Bellows. It is also worth noting that Lou Lamoriello has been very secretive about his free agent signings in the past, so they may have less cap room than one would expect. Nevertheless, if they are able to add Kadri, it would provide a ton of help in their quest of once again becoming one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams.
Frustrating Summer for Kadri
While he may not admit this publicly, Kadri has to be very frustrated with how this entire free agency process has played out. Having spent the last six seasons on a bargain contract that carried a cap hit of $4.5 million, this appeared to be his opportunity to really cash in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear any deal he gets will be anywhere close to what he had hoped, though he should still be able to command a reasonably high salary if he is comfortable signing a deal in the four-to-five-year term range, rather than the maximum of seven.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.