The National Hockey League (NHL) free agency period began almost a month ago and yet Nazem Kadri, one of the best players on the market, remains unsigned. Nazem Kadri recorded a career-best 87 points in 71 regular season games for the Colorado Avalanche last season and was an absolute force in the playoffs with 15 points in 16 games while scoring key goals and agitating opponents.
Any team signing Nazem Kadri should be aware of the risks. He’s 31 years old and likely nearing the end of his prime. He also had only 32 and 36 points in the two years prior to this season. However, there’s plenty about his game that makes him an attractive fit for several teams.
It’s not as though Nazem Kadri’s career-high 87 points came out of nowhere. He’s a former first-round pick who produced well over a point per game in junior and has topped 50 points with the Toronto Maple Leafs in three seasons, including in 2017-18 when he scored 32 goals for the second consecutive season.
Nazem Kadri is also one of the best – and most talented – pests in the league. He gets under his opponents’ skin and can drive players to take dumb penalties – although he’s often in the penalty box for stupid reasons himself.
Still, it’s strange to think he’s still waiting to sign. Did he wait too long while demanding too much money or is he waiting for teams to free up cap space? Let’s take a look at the best three options for Nazem Kadri.
It may not be all doom and gloom for the Calgary Flames. The team lost Johnny Gaudreau to free agency and appeared as though it might be facing a full-blown rebuild with the prospect of losing Matthew Tkachuk for no more than picks and prospects. That doesn’t appear to be the case as Calgary instead dealt Tkachuk for Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman Mackenzie Weegar.
Calgary still has $9.3 million in cap space with a somewhat deep forward group including Huberdeau, Elias Lindholm, Tyler Toffoli, Blake Coleman, and Andrew Mangiapane. Kadri would be a great complement to those players.
All things considered, Huberdeau and Kadri aren’t much of a drop off from Gaudreau and Tkachuk.
Nazem Kadri and the Avalanche would be a perfect fit. He’s made it clear he’s open to returning to Denver and the team needs him more than they might think, especially since he gives them an element up front that they might otherwise be missing.
Unfortunately, Colorado has only $3.9 million in cap space, which is less than what Nazem Kadri made last season. He’s clearly hoping for a substantial raise, but might take a little less to return to Colorado. This could be part of the hold up in him signing a contract.
New York Islanders
The New York Islanders haven’t done a single thing in free agency, prompting many to wonder if the team’s 79-year-old general manager Lou Lamoriello has fallen asleep for the summer. The Islanders have $11 million in salary cap space, which can be a good thing considering many teams overpay for free agents, but they also need to improve.
New York clearly thought they were in on Gaudreau, but could get a nice consolation prize in Kadri. He played under Lamoriello with the Maple Leafs and fills a pressing need for the Islanders while also complementing their gritty playing style.