Calgary Flames Sign Nazem Kadri to 7-Year Deal

Big news in the NHL today as Nazem Kadri – the second biggest free agent forward this year behind only Johnny Gaudreau – has signed with the Calgary Flames. Following weeks of speculation, the recent Stanley Cup Champion has finally provided some clarity about his hockey future, shocking the hockey world by signing long-term with the very team who lost Gaudreau in free agency. 

Kadri is a 13-year NHL veteran with 739 regular season games under his belt split between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Colorado Avalanche. He was drafted seventh overall by Toronto in the 2009 Draft, and though it took him a couple of years to become an impact player in the NHL, he has had a great career ever since. 

Kadri was a very important player for the Avalanche in their 2021-22 Stanley Cup Playoff run where he scored 15 points in 16 games, including his overtime winning goal in Game 4 of the Cup Final. After suffering a broken finger in a game against the Edmonton Oilers in the second round of the playoffs, he had a surgery to repair his finger and returned for Game 4 of the Cup Final, just in time to score the biggest goal of his career.

Related: 2022 NHL Free Agency Tracker

Even without winning the Cup, this was the most impressive season of Kadri’s career thus far. He scored an impressive 87 points in only 71 games, a 100-point pace over a full 82-game season. One of the most important parts of his success last season is that it seems sustainable at first glance. Kadri’s shooting percentage this season was 11.3%, which was only a hare better than his career shooting percentage of 11.2%.

He is an excellent power-forward with a fast and physical game that translated very well into the playoffs last year. Kadri has scored just over 500 regular season points in his career and will likely score a few hundred more on his newest team. 

Fit With Flames

This move adds some valuable championship experience to the Flames’ roster, since Kadri was a leader – and a top scorer – on a dominant Avalanche team throughout the regular season and playoffs last year. 

Nazem Kadri Colorado Avalanche
Nazem Kadri, Colorado Avalanche (Getty Images)

Kadri will be able to slot in as an excellent second-line center who will play big minutes on both special teams units. He is incredibly versatile, meaning he can adjust his game to play however his coaches desire, playing a high-flying offensive game or a defensively minded shutdown role. Elias Lindholm will likely be the team’s top-line center, playing between Andrew Mangiapane and Jonathan Huberdeau, who was acquired by the team in the Matthew Tkachuk trade. 

This large of a contract would put some strain on most team’s salary cap situation, and Calgary is no exception which is why they are also reportedly moving on from the final year of Sean Monahan’s contract worth about $6.4 million in a cap-dump trade to the Montreal Canadiens.

With this move the Flames are nearly unrecognizable from the team they had last year, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Calgary was considered by many to be a true contender as the postseason came around last year, but they couldn’t get past the Edmonton Oilers in the second round. After their elimination, it looked like the team was on the verge of a rebuild, losing two franchise cornerstones in Gaudreau and Tkachuk. However, a great return in the Tkachuk trade when paired with the addition of Kadri should be enough to keep the team’s championship window open a bit longer. 

I don’t expect this deal to age particularly well in five or six years, much like the Huberdeau extension, but I don’t think that makes it a bad decision. The Flames have a great goaltender in Jacob Markstrom and several extremely talented players who are in the prime of their careers so it makes sense to go all in for the next few seasons and see if you can win the Stanley Cup. 

Writing On the Wall

As Kadri’s excellent regular season continued, it became clear that the Avalanche were not going to be able to afford him long-term unless he took a serious pay cut. There are many other important players from the Avalanche’s championship run who need to be re-signed including Artruri Lehkonen, André Burakovsky, Valeri Nichuskin, and more. 

While they may have been able to accommodate his increased cap-hit for a year or two if they let a few of their other players walk in Free Agency, the anticipation of the raises that young players like Bowen Byram and Alex Newhook have earned meant that the Avalanche must be careful with their cap space. Byram and Newhook’s entry-level contracts will end after the 2022-23 season and they have both earned significant raises, not to mention the overdue raise earned by superstar Nathan MacKinnon. 

The writing has been on the wall all year that Kadri wasn’t going to fit in with the team’s long-term plans, so it is great for him that he could capitalize on his career year last season and such a massive contract with a competitive team.