Analyzing 8 Potential Landing Spots for Nazem Kadri

Abbey MastraccoJuly 21, 2022

Analyzing 8 Potential Landing Spots for Nazem Kadri

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    Nazem Kadri was widely considered the second-best free agent in the 2022 class, right behind winger Johnny Gaudreau. While the latter got a seven-year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, Kadri still sits on the market unsigned one week into free agency.

    This might be typical for baseball, but not in the NHL, where the top free agents are usually signed within hours of the negotiating period. However, the salary cap has been flat for two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it's only going up by $1 million next season, making it difficult for teams to sign free agents to big-money deals.

    And Kadri is owed some big money.

    Kadri is coming off of a 28-goal, 87-point season. The center played a major role in the Colorado Avalanche's run to the Stanley Cup, even scoring a hat trick against the St. Louis Blues during a series in which the practicing Muslim of Lebanese descent received racist and xenophobic threats.

    He scored seven goals in the postseason, including an overtime game-winner in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, his first game of the series after recovering from thumb surgery.

What Would a Contract Look Like?

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    Other free-agent centers of a similar caliber as Kadri have received contracts in the $5.5 million average annual value (AAV) range lasting anywhere from 5-7 years.

    Vincent Trocheck received seven years and $5.6 million AAV from the New York Rangers, while Andrew Copp went to the Detroit Red Wings for the same AAV across five years. Ryan Strome signed a five-year deal at $5 million with the rebuilding Anaheim Ducks.

    None of those players were as productive as Kadri last season. However, they are all younger than the 31-year-old.

    There is also Kadri's history of disciplinary issues on the ice and his reputation for playing dirty. Kadri has missed over 20 games from suspensions instated by the Toronto Maple Leafs, the NHL and the AHL. He made it through last season without a fine or a suspension, but his history will undoubtedly be factored into any contract.

    Kadri's last deal paid him $4.5 million AAV, so he's due for a considerable pay raise. His next contract could be anywhere from $6-8 million per year, and 5-7 years is probably the term he's looking for.

    According to Peter Baugh of The Athletic, he would like to play for a contender. The problem is that many of the contenders are approaching the salary cap, though Baugh added that teams are trying to clear space to sign Kadri.

    Kadri might find what he's looking for on a team that is building toward contention and intends to compete for a playoff spot next season, but clearing the necessary cap space to sign a player like Kadri won't be easy and may not be desirable for some contenders.

    With that said, let's take a look at some potential landing spots and explore the pros and cons.

Non-Contenders: Anaheim Ducks, Seattle Kraken, Calgary Flames

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    The Ducks are in the midst of a rebuild and next year's draft is going to be loaded with potential superstars such as Connor Bedard. But recent additions such as Ryan Strome and Frank Vatrano have improved the roster, and adding a player like Kadri might give them a few more wins. Will it be too many wins to miss out on a lottery pick next year?

    The Kraken are relying on young players like Matty Beniers and Shane Wright, but they'll have to punch above their weight for a few years until they develop. Give them a few years, and they could be a strong one-two punch. But if Seattle wants to improve its fortunes in the short term, then Kadri would add significant depth up the middle. Plus, the club has a ton of money to spend.

    The Flames looked like contenders this season, but then they lost Johnny Gaudreau, and now they're going to lose Matthew Tkachuk. Putting Kadri on a line with Blake Coleman and Andrew Mangiapane sure would be fun, but are they willing to spend this kind of money?

Colorado Avalanche

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    When players like this sit on the open market for a long period of time, their previous team can often come in and convince them to take a hometown discount.

    But he would have to take a steep discount, considering the Avs have a little less than $4 million in cap space this year, and they have five important players coming to the end of their contracts: Nathan MacKinnon, J.T. Compher, Alex Newhook, Bowen Byram and Erik Johnson.

    Johnson will be 35 when he hits free agency next season, so he'll either come off the books or possibly take a smaller deal. Newhook will be a restricted free agent in need of a pay raise, and the club can try and extend Compher and MacKinnon immediately. But MacKinnon will probably be making around $11 million AAV or more, which will take up a lot of the cap moving forward.

    Where does that leave Kadri? Colorado would have to move someone like Samuel Girard to make him fit. Girard is a 24-year-old defenseman making $5 million AAV for the next five seasons and has a modified no-trade clause starting in 2024-25, so he would be an attractive trade target, but he's also a player the Avs might like to keep around.

    This only works if Kadri is willing to take a short-term deal to try and give this group a shot at another championship, but a three-year contract means negotiating another one at age 34, which isn't exactly ideal for him and could mean less money in the end.

New Jersey Devils

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    The Devils are not yet a contending team, but the aggressive moves made over the last two summers have indicated that the club would like to be soon. Last year, the Devils signed defenseman Dougie Hamilton to a long-term deal. They recently offered Gaudreau a contract and pivoted to Ondrej Palat when he chose the Blue Jackets.

    The Devils have the cap space now and in the future, with Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier already locked up long-term. A few key young players, like winger Yegor Sharangovich and goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, will be owed raises as restricted free agents next summer, and winger Jesper Bratt is owed one now, but that still leaves room for a player like Kadri.

    However, Kadri is a center, and the Devils are building around two of them. They could always move Dawson Mercer out to the wing, but Kadri probably doesn't want to sign with a team that will make him a second- or third-line center.

    Also, under current ownership, the club has been hesitant to sign players to long-term contracts as free agents. This started under former general manager Ray Shero and has continued under current general manager Tom Fitzgerald, who worked under Shero for several years.

    The plan has always been to build around homegrown talent and sign veteran players to short-term deals to help supplement and mentor them while also serving as bridge players to the next period of the rebuild. This prevents salary cap trouble in the long term, and it's believed to be a sustainable way to win.

    A long-term free-agent contract means paying for a decline in the later years of the deal. New Jersey was willing to take that risk with Hamilton, who was only 28 when they signed him for seven years, and Palat, a two-time Stanley Cup champion who will be in Newark for the next five. The club might not want to sign another player to a long-term contract right now, especially another center.

New York Islanders

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    The Islanders were also snubbed by Gaudreau, but unlike New Jersey, New York did not immediately pivot to another pivot. It's unclear what, exactly, the Islanders are doing, considering their two biggest offseason moves have been firing coach Barry Trotz and trade the 13th overall pick for defenseman Alexander Romanov.

    New York was only a win away from the Stanley Cup Final last summer, and most of the same pieces are still in place. They have excellent goaltending in Ilya Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov, their top defense pairing of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock is signed long-term, and they have one of the game's most exciting young stars in center Mathew Barzal.

    They could use an offensive presence in the lineup, especially if new coach Lane Lambert uses the same defensive scheme as Trotz, his predecessor and longtime mentor. Kadri would certainly provide some scoring.

    But the Isles have the same problem as the Devils in that they have too many centers. Make no mistake, this is a good problem to have, but it might preclude them from signing Kadri. They could always try and convince Kadri to move out to the wing, but a source told me that he's not nearly as effective on the wing as he is at center.

    Kadri might want to take the toughest draws and play the toughest defensive matchups. MacKinnon handled those in Colorado, and Barzal will likely continue to handle them in Long Island.

    Barzal will be a restricted free agent after next season, and he'll probably get a contract in the $9 million range. There is plenty of cap space right now, but the Isles might feel the crunch soon.

Ottawa Senators

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    Much like the Devils, the Sens aren't contenders yet but are working toward becoming one in the near future. They added Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat in recent weeks and upgraded their goaltending by trading for Cam Talbot.

    Ottawa has a talented young core led by captain Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Tim Stutzle and defenseman Thomas Chabot. They could move Stutzle down to the third line to take the pressure off of the 20-year-old and have Kadri handle some of the tougher matchups.

    Most importantly, the Senators have the salary cap space.

    This club has been marred by dysfunction in recent years, but general manager Pierre Dorion seems to have things stabilized for now. The Senators might not be ready to contend right away by adding Kadri, but they're on a good track, and Kadri would put them on an even faster one.

Nashville Predators

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    John Hynes-led teams are typically very tough to play against, and Kadri would fit right into that playing style. Under coach Jared Bednar in Colorado, Kadri learned to approach that line of physicality and play with an edge without crossing it as often as he did in Toronto.

    Hynes is also adept at getting the most out of players like Kadri. He reined in Blake Coleman in New Jersey and has helped revive Matt Duchene's career, so this could be a good fit.

    The Preds have struggled to make deep playoff runs after making the Stanley Cup Final in 2017. They have yet to get out of the second round since then and have lost in the first round four years in a row. Nashville was swept by the Avs this year, though the series might have been more competitive if they had goaltender Juuse Saros healthy.

    Saros is a Vezina contender, captain Roman Josi nearly won the Norris Trophy and Filip Forsberg just re-upped for eight more years. This roster is top-heavy right now, and without a ton of quality prospects ready to contribute right away, a player like Kadri would certainly deepen it.

    In terms of cap space, the club has room for a player like Kadri, though they may not be able to give him an $8 million AAV. There is little flexibility in spending right up to the cap, and with the way this roster is currently constructed, flexibility to add is still necessary.

    But if Kadri is willing to take a lower AAV to help a team with high-end talent get over the hump, then it might work.

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