The Washington Capitals went into 2022 NHL Free Agency with several items on their to-do list, as well as a major void to address down the middle. One of the options on the market was Nazem Kadri. And finally, after over a month on the market, the 31-year-old signed with the Calgary Flames.
Given how the whole situation with Kadri ended up playing out, the Capitals considerably dodged a bullet for more reasons than one.
First off, Kadri’s deal is a seven-year, $49 million extension that carries a $7 million AAV and expires when he turns 39. Given the season he had, that kind of pay raise was expected. Kadri is coming off a career year with the Colorado Avalanche that saw him dish 28 goals and 59 assists for 87 points in 71 regular-season games. He also had 15 points in 16 playoff games en route to the Stanley Cup.
Still, that cost would have been tough to accommodate for Washington. Sure, the team had a lot to work with at the start of free agency. There was LTIR space, with Nicklas Backstrom (hip), Tom Wilson (ACL) and Carl Hagelin (eye) coming off the books. Plus, a number of free agents, including Justin Schultz and Michal Kempny, as well as both goaltenders in Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek departing. However, there were more needs than just a star center.
The Capitals not only needed a top-6 center but needed two new goaltenders — including a surefire, proven No. 1 and reliable backup — after two years of instability between the pipes. Also, the team needed a penalty killer and more options on the blue line.
Kadri’s asking price was reportedly $9 million to start. But even his $7 million AAV he ended up with would’ve meant that Washington couldn’t make those other important moves. So, instead, they made the right call, going for Dylan Strome as a cheaper option and also upgrading the top-6 with Connor Brown, all for the same price that Kadri would’ve cost — and for much longer. They also got their starter — and a great one — in Darcy Kuemper for a $5.25 million AAV and a strong No. 2 in Charlie Lindgren for $1.1 million AAV.
The holdout, too, would’ve kept the Capitals waiting and potentially holding off on some moves until Kadri made his decision. The same thing happened to Lou Lamoriello and the New York Islanders, who missed out on big names and other vital needs while waiting to see if the Stanley Cup champion would sign with New York.
Still, there’s no doubting that Kadri brings a lot to the table. He has stepped up to the plate and has become a vital, clutch contributor. He also brings grit, heart and a winning attitude on and off the ice. That’s something that would’ve been good for Washington without Tom Wilson but not worth the wait.
Plus, those All-Star numbers haven’t been consistent for Kadri over the course of his career. His numbers have fluctuated over time. He spent the first 10 years of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he dished 357 points in 561 games. Following his trade to Colorado, his numbers picked up with the powerhouse team, as he put up 155 points in 175 games. However, he has only hit the 50-plus point mark four times (excluding the lockout year).
So, there’s more risk there that comes with Kadri. If his numbers drop, whether it’s age or injuries or lack of chemistry, the Capitals are stuck with a big name and second-line center on the books that eats a lot of cap space and wouldn’t be the easiest to clear.
Plus, Washington needs to inject youth into the lineup with the core aging and the Stanley Cup window closing. Bringing Kadri on board long-term would complicate that. Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre and several other centers with top-6 potential are waiting for their crack at a bigger role and time in the lineup, so seeing Kadri take up top-6 minutes wouldn’t be productive for the organization.
So, in the end, while Kadri landed in a good spot and can still bring top-6 potential to a new-look Flames team, Washington didn’t miss out. Instead, they won big and gained more by passing on him.