Friends, free agency began two weeks ago in the National Hockey League and Nazem Kadri remains a free agent. A key member of the Colorado Avalanche’s Stanley Cup championship team, Kadri would probably have signed somewhere if not for the salary cap challenges faced by most of the league’s contenders.
With Kadri a free agent and the Flames likely looking to replace some of the offence they lost this off-season, could Kadri be a fit?
There’s two ways of looking at Kadri’s situation: the hockey side and the financial side.
The hockey side is pretty straightforward. Kadri is 31 and is a left shot centre. He’s emerged as a really good offensive forward and has played 739 regular season games with Toronto and Colorado.
He’s coming off an excellent 2021-22 season that saw him erupt for 28 goals and 87 points in 71 games. While he missed time with injuries, when he was in the Avs’ lineup he was superb. He’s probably not a perpetual 80+ point player, as his previous seasons he had usually scored at a 50-60 point pace, but he’s a really good player.
He primarily played with Andre Burakovsky and Valeri Nichushkin at five-on-five (and when not Nichushkin, with J.T. Comper or Logan O’Connor). His lines consistently moved the puck up the ice, though he, Burakovsky and Nichushkin were out-scored when they were on the ice. Kadri plays with a physical edge and is a good example of what Kent Wilson dubbed “functional toughness,” in that he can crash and bang and play well in all three zones. He’s done a better job at avoiding penalties and supplemental discipline in recent years, too.
The fit for Kadri is obvious: he’s a really good centre, and adding him would give the Flames a really nice one-two punch between him and Elias Lindholm, and probably would push Mikael Backlund down to the third line. If you’re rolling out Lindholm, Kadri and Backlund as your centres, you’re deep. Kadri could also possibly fit on the first line, pushing Lindholm to the right wing or even operating in tandem. A first line of Jonathan Huberdeau, Kadri and Lindholm would be formidable.
Simply put: if your team can afford to add Kadri, he can help your team big-time.
The big thing is: can teams afford to add Kadri? Our pals at Evolving Hockey project him at a seven year deal worth $8.469 million per season. Even at a shorter term – teams might be hesitant to go seven years with a 31-year-old – a three year term is projected at $7.122 million. Even at a big discount, he’s not cheap. (But he’s probably worth it, especially on a shorter deal.)
Based on our latest cap rundown, here’s roughly how things looked for a regular-ish NHL roster with Juuso Valimaki as their seventh blueliner:
If we project Mangiapane’s new deal at around $5 million and Kylington’s around $2.75 million, that gives the Flames two goalies, seven defencemen and 11 forwards with cap space remaining of about $4.175 million for two or three forwards to fill out the roster. (If they have a different seventh defender who makes less than Valimaki, that space grows a bit.)
So the Flames have about $4.175 million to add two or three forwards. That’s about half the cap space they would need to add Kadri, so that’s obviously not enough.
The Flames would definitely benefit from having Kadri on their team. He’d make them deeper and more offensively dangerous, and along with the adds of Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar would help make up for the losses of Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk. But if they want him, they have some work to do to move some salary cap hits out of town to open up cap room for him.
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