Nazem Kadri is having a great season. He lit it up during the regular season, scoring 28 goals and 59 assists (for 87 points) in 71 games. During the postseason, he’s added seven goals and eight assists (for 15 points) in 14 games. And he would have scored more if he hadn’t had a thumb injury that required surgery in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
Even after surgery, he came back for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. Did he miss a beat? Not one. While it took him a bit of time to get his stick-handling back, he was all over the ice; and, in fact, he ended up scoring the game-winner (controversial as it was) just over 12 minutes into the first overtime period. As a result of his goal, he and his Avalanche teammates now take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
All that and much more (Jersey Fouls, Norris voting, winners/losers) my ESPN column this week: https://t.co/eHxu2uKqTK
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) June 23, 2022
His team can win it all on home ice tonight. Assuming there’s no miracle comeback by the Tampa Bay Lightning, the big question arises. Now what?
Will Kadri Stay in Colorado; and, If So, What Will It Cost
During the regular season, Kadri was one of four Avalanche players who scored more than 85 points. As notred, he scored 87. His previous best season was in 2016-17 when he scored 61 points. Perhaps that’s a one-off for Kadri, but it sure doesn’t look like it given his postseason.
Kardi was on a tear this season, playing on a strong second line between Valeri Nichushkin and Andre Burakovsky. More recently, he’s been centering Gabriel Landeskog and Nichushkin. Each of those trios can be trusted by Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar to play strong 200-foot hockey. The Avalanche’s defense is stiffling.
In fact, earlier in the regular season, coach Bednar noted that Kadri’s “checking game’s been really good.” Bednar added that Kadri is “committed for 200 feet and he’s managing the puck better than he was earlier in the year. He’s kind of bought into that, too.”
Bednar noted that Kadri has “really elevated his game in those areas and it’s leading to success for him from a production standpoint.”
While He’s Been In Colorado, Kadri Has Been the Second-Line Center
Throughout his career, Kadri has been a valuable support piece who complements the elite scorers. His presence down the middle makes a difference to his teams. While he’s been with the Avalanche, he’s been a second-line center. With the Maple Leafs, he was basically the third-line center for his entire career there.
With the Avalanche, he’s thrived on the extra responsibility and has given the Avalanche great value on his $4.5 million salary-cap hit. In fact, for what he brings to the team, he’s been a bargain. But, with Kadri’s team-friendly contract about to expire in a week, the Avalanche face a decision about Kadri.
First, there’s no way the Avalanche wouldn’t want to keep him. His performance has far surpassed the numbers on his contract. But, is 2021-22 a one-off? Can Kadri keep up the solid numbers? If the team gives him a raise, which he surely deserves, can he play up to it?
The Avalanche Has Some Space in Their Salary Cap, But … Lots to Do
The Avalanche have just under $25 million in off-season salary-cap space. But, Kadri needs a raise. Goalie Darcy Kuemper, like Kadri is coming off a $4.5 million contract, will be a UFA. And, in another year, perhaps the biggest chunk of that salary-cap will be headed toward Nathan MacKinnon’s bank account. MacKinnon’s contract expires at the end of the 2022-23 season.
Yes, a too many men call was missed in overtime on Nazem Kadri’s goal in Game 4, but as @jtbourne explains, the Colorado Avalanche had the Tampa Bay Lightning flailing and earned the win. https://t.co/Yqavjbt0DM
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 23, 2022
One thing that seems to have changed is Kadri’s propensity to earn a postseason suspension each season. He still plays his edgy style, but this postseason he’s stayed in games. No suspensions. Last postseason his deserved eight-game vacation. That hurt his team.
Given the Need for Top-Six Centers, Kadri Will Earn a Raise
Given that centers with Kadri’s pedigree are hard to come by, he’ll be in demand. My sense is that he’s unlikely to want to move away from Colorado now that he’s found a home where he’s wanted and appreciated. He knows he’s one of the guys here in ways he wasn’t part of the core in Toronto.
My call is that he won’t push the team toward $7 million, even if the market might warrant it. I’m guessing he re-signs with the Avalanche for just over $6 million.
I don’t think Kadri wants to leave and won’t squeeze the team for its last drop of salary-cap space. Look for Kadri to re-sign with the Avalanche without much drama at all.
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