It’s the second biggest day of the offseason for hockey fans as free agency officially opens up on Wednesday and while the Colorado Avalanche would surely love to hold onto, newly appointed Stanley Cup champion, Nazem Kadri, the interest in the feisty forward will surely be high as he’s set to hit the open market following the best offensive seasons of his career.
With nothing left to prove as he so kindly told his critics following the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup win, Kadri will be wined and dined to open free agency as he will be one of the top five sought after free agents in this class.
Now, 31, the question might not be around what he can do on the ice, but surely there will be some who wonder how long he can continue to play that brute, bashing style of game that he’s played for so many years.
Still, you can’t argue the numbers. He had 28 goals and 87 points in 71 games before posting another seven goals and 15 points in 16 playoff games and there’s no question the heart and soul he put into every minute he played come playoff time.
So, with all that in mind, as the floodgates open on free agency, which markets seem to be a fit for the grizzled veteran from London, Ontario? Well, there are three that stand out the most and here’s a look at why those three might make sense for Kadri moving forward.
Why not stay where you won the Cup? According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the two sides have spoken – Joe Sakic and Kadri’s agent Darren Ferris. While the Avalanche would clearly like to hold onto a guy of Kadri’s stature, the money might be the major question mark.
The Avalanche are fresh off signing forward Valeri Nichushkin to an eight-year deal with $49 million, which evens out to a $6.125-million annual average value (AAV). That signing along with the Alexander Georgiev acquisition and signing has left the Avalanche with just over $14 million in cap space with only 17 roster contracts signed.
Assuming Kadri is looking the same range as Nichushkin at just over $6 million, which might be a low ask for one of the top dogs on the free agent market, that would leave the Avalanche with just over $8 million for another six players.
Now, it is doable for Sakic and the Avalanche. After all, who wouldn’t want to see Kadri back and the Avalanche go for another kick at the can? That said, Kadri would likely get more on the open market which could be one of the factors playing into him hitting free agency.
Either way, from the player’s standpoint, he had three of his best offensive seasons when it comes to points-per-game with the Avalanche and it’s not like they were using him in a reduced role at any point either.
There is potential we see this deal unfold, but don’t hold your breath. If there was a chance he was signing with Colorado, it likely would’ve already happened considering he could’ve grabbed the extra year.
New York Rangers
You’d think it’d be the other New York team as Kadri has ties to Lou Lamoriello — the man who signed his last contract with the Maple Leafs. But Kadri has a knack for being a spotlight player and what better place to do that than on Broadway with the blue shirts.
Related: Revisiting the Nazem Kadri Trade
With Adam Fox, Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad already leading the charge and Igor Shesterkin having a monster year in net, the Rangers aren’t far off from being a legitimate force in the Eastern Conference.
Metro Division teams are so tight in comparison in potential for next season that an add like this for any Metro team could push them over the edge. It was suggested earlier this week that Andrew Copp wouldn’t be returning to the Rangers which could be an excellent opportunity for them to go after Kadri. More offensive explosiveness than Copp, Kadri plays a similar physical style that could help with levelling out the middle six in New York City.
Again, the question might come down to cap space as the Rangers have just over $10 million to spend on seven roster contracts and bringing Kadri in could push Filip Chytil down the lineup which could hinder his development.
Just for a second though Rangers’ fans, picture this: Nazem Kadri centring a line Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko. Maybe that will get these two going.
No Johnny Gaudreau? Well, time to move on Calgary. What better way to move on than to get a hype player in Kadri? They might not be the frontrunners to land Kadri, but they sure have the cap space to do it if they aren’t getting Gaudreau back at the $10 million per season they offered him.
The biggest question for Kadri as it pertains to the Flames is whether or not they are in a spot to contend in the next few years. That again will come down to how badly Kadri wants to make another run, and my guess is one ring is just the beginning of what Kadri wants.
ESPN’s Emily Kaplan did report that the Flames could be a dark horse team for the veteran forward, but left that door open. Now, there’s no clear relationship between the two sides that would suggest the Flames might be frontrunners but don’t count them out either. We’ve seen them make some big acquisitions in past years such as Noah Hanifin and Blake Coleman, so it’s not impossible.
Consider the Flames a possibility, but not a probability.
When it comes down to it, Kadri is going to have his pick of the litter. There have even been suggestions floating around social media that maybe he follows his heart back home to Toronto now that he has the Cup ring. But that seems unlikely for two reasons. Firstly, the way he was treated on his way out of town — he had expressed his interest in remaining with the team before being shipped out to Colorado and, secondly, the Maple Leafs can’t afford the financial side of it unless they were to shed a big piece of their cap which isn’t likely.
All things considered, Kadri could be wearing new threads in the very near future and it could come down to how well a team is able to sell themselves to the Stanley Cup champ.
Andrew is in his 8th year reporting for The Hockey Writers covering the Toronto Maple Leafs. He began his broadcasting with CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada team as well as being part of their coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. He’s the former play-by-play voice of the London Jr. Knights for Rogers TV and currently hosts the Sticks in the 6ix podcast. You can follow him on Twitter at @AndrewGForbes.