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Nazem Kadri became a leader for the Calgary Flames during the 2023-24 season

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Photo credit:Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
Raz Devraj
13 days ago
Nazem Kadri has endured a lot of change since leaving the Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche in 2022 and joining the now-rebuilding Calgary Flames. It wasn’t what he was expecting, but he has stepped up both on and off the ice and with the way he performed this season and the new roles he embraced along the way he has become one of the most important players the Flames have.

The past 

Kadri was taken 7th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009. He made his NHL debut during the 2009-10 season but did not solidify himself as a regular NHLer till the 2013-14 season when he finished with 20 goals and 50 points. Kadri spent around 10 seasons with the team he grew up cheering for till he was sent over to the Colorado Avalanche in 2019. Funny enough, he declined a trade to the Flames before accepting the trade to the Avalanche.
The injury bug hit Kadri more than a couple of times once he joined the Avalanche which limited his ability to make an impact as that second-line centre during his first two seasons in Denver. He was healthy for his last season with the Avalanche and his stats showed that. It’s no secret that a big part of the Avalanche winning the cup in 2022 was due to Kadri’s presence. He had a career year putting up 28 goals and 87 points through 71 games played in the regular season. Kadri also contributed with 15 points during the playoffs as well.
Following his career season and a Stanley Cup, the Flames inked Kadri to a seven-year, $49 million deal. It’s no surprise that after the season he had he would get a raise. Signing a 32-year-old for seven years at a $7 million AAV raised some eyebrows but it was an effort from former general manager Brad Treliving to try and keep his team competitive after losing his two best players earlier in the off-season.
Kadri’s first season with the Flames added more fuel to the fire that he shouldn’t have been offered that kind of contract. Although the numbers he put up did not reflect the money he was making, he wasn’t surrounded by the same talent he was surrounded by in Colorado and he was back to producing at the level he was for his entire career. 

The present 

The comments and skepticism of Kadri’s contract and his first season with the Flames must have lit a fire under him because right off the bat he was ready to go. He brought a different level of energy and intensity, as well as patience in his game that Flames fans didn’t get to see the previous season. He was consistent throughout the year and was the most productive forward the Flames had. Given his production levels as well as how the team was structured this year, and who he was playing with for the majority of the season, there was no reason for anyone to look at that $49 Million contract and complain. 
Kadri finished this season with 29 goals and 75 points through 82 games played. It was his second-highest career high in points as well as the most goals he has ever had in a season in the NHL. To have that kind of year playing alongside two rookies is phenomenal stuff. 
Speaking of his linemates for most of the season (Martin Pospisil and Connor Zary) Kadri evolved as a leader for these two players and was able to drive a line well enough not only allowing himself to produce but also allowing Pospisil and Zary to continue to get smarter and gain confidence each game. 
Kadri emerged from a second-line centre into a first-line centre with the help of his play as well as the departure of Elias Lindholm and he became someone who was a leader in the locker room. He was a player whose effort levels were high every night and brought out the best in his linemates, an important veteran presence for all the youth that entered the lineup this year. 
Kadri was an important part of this roster with everything he embraced this season and aside from Jacob Markstrom, he was the Flames’ MVP. 

The future

Kadri is under contract with the Flames for another five seasons. As we know the Flames are entering their rebuilding days. He’s already won a cup but at 33-years-old who knows if he will want to try and go for another one as his career dwindles down. If the Flames commit to a proper rebuild without taking shortcuts to become competitive quickly, Kadri most likely will not see the playoffs for most of the remaining years on his contract. 
Although this wasn’t what Kadri was expecting when he signed the deal back in 2022, he has come out and said that he is committed to Calgary and that he wants to stay in Calgary. He has embraced his veteran role and wants to continue to be a player who can lead this team back to being competitive. 
Regardless of whether or not that mindset changes for him, it’s going to be pretty difficult for the Flames to try and move a player in their mid-thirties who is carrying a cap hit of seven million dollars. 
For now, Kadri will remain a big part of this team in more ways than one. Continuing to be a reliable first-line center for a couple more years as well as helping develop the youth that will slowly make their presence is everything the Flames could ask for. 
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