Nazem Kadri is a Stanley Cup champion who had 87 points in 71 games last season for the Colorado Avalanche. He hadn’t scored more than 61 points in a season previously, turns 32 in October and is seeking a hefty payday on a new contract.
The combination of those factors make Kadri a top-tier NHL free agent center who also has yet to find a home this summer. There’s been all sorts of speculation about teams trying to clear space under the flat(ish) salary cap for the talented scorer, but nothing has manifested yet.
Kadri’s agent Darren Ferris said he was unable to comment on the state of his player’s contract talks at this time.
Where could Kadri end up? What makes sense? Here are some possibilities based on what we’ve heard and what’s been speculated:
Cap space: $11,185,037
The running joke in hockey circles is that GM Lou Lamoriello keeps things so closely guarded that it’s possible the Islanders signed Kadri when free agency opened and we won’t find out until he skates out in a blue and orange jersey at training camp.
That tracks with Lamoriello, but so does his having an affinity for Kadri. When he was GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Lamoriello handed Kadri a six-year, $27 million contract that Kadri just completed after the Avalanche captured the Stanley Cup.
“I think that Naz showed he can be put in any role, no matter what it might be,” Lamoriello said in 2016. “He found himself in that shutdown role, he found himself offensively on the power play. I think that’s the great thing about him. He’ll accept whatever role is given to him.”
Does he have a role on the Islanders? That probably depends on whether one of their current centers will accept whatever role is given to them. Kadri is a center and excels as such. The Islanders’ top three pivots are Mathew Barzal — who is a year away from restricted free agency — Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
There’s little reason to move Pageau out of the middle on their third line. So that leaves Nelson and Barzal potentially shifting to Kadri’s wing. Shifting Nelson over to the wing makes a bit more sense, as he scored 37 goals last season and is generally a superior finisher to Barzal. But there’s also an argument to be made that putting Barzal on the wing would allow him a little more open ice in which to create while also better minimizing his defensive deficiencies.
The Islanders are a win-now team that already has nine players over 30, so what’s one more who turns 32 in October? After watching other teams in the division load up with talent this summer, Kadri would bolster this lineup and create a little more buzz in a shiny new building that needs it.
Cap space: $2,210,834
There was a lot of buzz around Kadri to the Kraken at the NHL draft. The logic was two-fold. First, Seattle was a team flush with cap space that needed to make a Year 2 splash after a tepid inaugural season. But Kadri would also allow the team’s young centers — Matty Beniers and Shane Wright — time to percolate as Kadri handled duties in the top-line center spot.
That was then. Now, the Kraken have just over $2 million in available cap space after adding Andre Burakovsky at $5.5 million per year as a free agent and trading for Oliver Bjorkstrand ($5.4 million AAV) after the Columbus Blue Jackets signed both Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine. Those two both play on the wing, where the Kraken are really loaded. At center, they’ll have Beniers and Wright along with Yanni Gourde, Alexander Wennberg, Morgan Geekie and potentially Jared McCann.
Salary cap conditions can always change — the Kraken would do well to move one or two of their Year 1 forwards this offseason — but the lineup doesn’t really speak to a need for Kadri. Now, free agent defenseman John Klingberg on the other hand …
Cap space: $9.3 million
If the last week taught us anything, it’s that the Flames are still very much all-in with this roster.
After Gaudreau walked away to the Blue Jackets, Calgary was forced to trade Matthew Tkachuk after he made it clear he wasn’t signing there long-term. The return from the Florida Panthers was Jonathan Huberdeau and MacKenzie Weegar. Even if they walk next summer as free agents, the Flames added an MVP-level winger (Huberdeau) and a borderline elite defenseman (Weegar) to a Pacific Division-winning roster which features a Jack Adams-winning coach (Darryl Sutter) and a goalie (Jacob Markstrom) who is too good for Calgary to all of a sudden decide to tank instead.
They could use Kadri. Absolutely. After Elias Lindholm and Mikael Backlund, they don’t have much at the center position. Kadri would instantly bolster that group. He probably wouldn’t mind taking passes from Huberdeau for a season, either.
The challenge is the money. That $9.3 million in cap space is deceptive. Restricted free agent Andrew Mangiapane needs a new contract after a 35-goal season and is scheduled for arbitration. Fellow RFA Oliver Kylington played 74 games and was a plus-34. He won’t get the kind of reward that Mangiapane will, but it’ll cut into that cap space.
Again, the on-ice fit is undeniable, right down to the fact that Kadri could help fill the agitation role that Tkachuk played so well. It would just be a matter of money and Kadri’s desire to join a team that, frankly, might have a one-year window to win.
Cap space: $4,758,333
If we’re to believe the notion that Kadri is waiting for a team to clear space for his arrival, then the Bruins have to remain on the radar because he’s a potential fit as a center and a perfect fit as a pain in the posterior.
Patrice Bergeron‘s return to the team would slot him at the No. 1 center spot. The Bruins have had discussions with David Krejci about a return to the club, one season after he left to play in the Czech Extraliga. Then there’s Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha in the middle, too, not to mention players like Jack Studnicka looking for ice time.
Finding room for Kadri would be difficult if Krejci returns as expected. Heck, finding money for either of them would still necessitate finding a taker for someone like Nick Foligno ($3.8 million AAV for one more season).
But Kadri adds a snarl and swagger that the Bruins lack outside of Brad Marchand. As dependable as Krejci is as a point-producing center — especially in the postseason — there are elements to Kadri’s game that Boston could really use in a No. 2 center.
The elephant in the room is, of course, that Kadri has just a smidgen of history with the Bruins. While with the Maple Leafs, he was suspended for three games for boarding forward Tommy Wingels in the 2018 playoffs and then ran it back with a four-game suspension for cross-checking Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk in the 2019 playoffs.
That history has made the speculation about Kadri and the Bruins both curious and potentially fascinating, depending on fan reaction. But he’s a different person and player than he was during that run.
Cap space: $10,890,119
Based on what we’ve seen from Ottawa this offseason, we can assume it would be in the mix on Kadri. It has the cap flexibility. It is one of those Eastern Conference teams attempting a quick level up with veteran acquisitions (Claude Giroux, Alex DeBrincat) joining their collection of younger talent.
To that end, Kadri could be a fit here, although it would probably make more sense to keep young Tim Stutzle in the middle and spend the available cap space for an upgrade on defense.
Cap space: $10,296,111
Does Kadri fit into the Yzer plan? Detroit GM Steve Yzerman has made some money moves in the offseason, signing David Perron ($4.75 million AAV), Andrew Copp ($5.625 million AAV), Ben Chiarot ($4.75 million), Dominik Kubalik ($2.5 million AAV) and Olli Maatta ($2.25 million AAV) in free agency and trading for goalie Ville Husso. That’s an entire starting lineup!
The Red Wings still have the flexibility this season to bring in Kadri and then have a bunch of players coming off their cap in 2023-24. If they don’t have to go too long in term with Kadri, he makes a lot of sense. Kadri slots in behind Dylan Larkin as the No. 2 center. Copp could fill that role or shift to the wing or drop down to No. 3 center — his versatility made him a trade deadline darling last season.
Perron brings a ring to the Red Wings dressing room. So would Kadri. That’s important for a young team learning how to win. But that’s also part of the consideration for Kadri: Detroit is trying to turn the corner, but is it close enough to contention for Kadri?
Cap space: $3.91 million
Can Nazem Kadri go home again? Better question: Have the Avalanche already converted his bedroom into a yoga studio/storage space?
“We’ve asked Naz’s agent to keep us in the loop on it,” newly promoted Avalanche GM Chris MacFarland said after free agency opened. “Obviously, he’s a high-priority player, deservedly so. [Plays in the] middle of the ice. That’s the best that I can say on that.”
The biggest priority for the Avalanche right now is ensuring that their cap for next summer is in order so they can hand Nathan MacKinnon his big extension before unrestricted free agency. If Kadri doesn’t fit into that financial planning … well, that’s why they walked him to free agency. Center J.T. Compher could slide up to the second line until promising 21-year-old Alex Newhook is ready to lock that down.
If there was a way to bring Kadri back on a contract that made sense regarding term and against the cap — that somehow wouldn’t necessitate it trading a player it doesn’t want to jettison — then why not run it back with a lineup that led Colorado to the Stanley Cup?
To create room for Kadri, moving Compher ($3.5 million) one year before unrestricted free agency could make sense. The Avalanche won the Cup without Sam Girard in the lineup, but Colorado reportedly isn’t keen on trading a 24-year-old defenseman with a great cap number ($5 million AAV) through 2026-27.
It’s hard to imagine Kadri going for a hometown discount with the Avalanche. He’s earned the chance to score big on this contract. But if he’s looking to play for a contender … why not the champs?
“Being able to be put in a position to succeed with my teammates … it’s hard to explain. You work your whole life for this, and now it is here, so incredible feeling,” Kadri said after the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup.
What’s that feeling worth?