The Islanders have been extremely quiet throughout this year’s free agency period, but there’s finally a bit of buzz surrounding them. Several quality sources believe the Islanders have a deal with free agent center Nazem Kadri. The rumor is that the deal is just pending the Islanders being able to clear up some cap room to account for the deal. If the rumors are true, this would be a big-time signing for the Islanders after striking out on Gaudreau. However, Kadri isn’t necessarily the perfect fit for the team despite being one of the higher-level players on the market this offseason. Here is a look at the pros and cons of the Islanders possibly signing Kadri.
Pro: Shifting Barzal to the wing could be a beneficial move
Since the Islanders already have four everyday starters at center, someone is going to have to move to wing if Kadri comes in. While it’s uncertain what the Islanders would actually do if this deal comes to fruition, the popular idea is moving Barzal to the right wing. And while it would be a learning curve for Barzal, it could pan out really well for the Islanders. For starters, Kadri’s 48% career faceoff percentage is a pretty significant upgrade from Barzal’s 43% career total.
In addition, Barzal playing from the right wing could better allow him to advantageously utilize his speed and puck skills on offensive zone entries. Also, assuming Barzal plays alongside Kadri, the duo could pose a very prominent scoring threat together. Barzal has needed another high scoring line mate since Jordan Eberle left, and Kadri could be a great fit in that regard. It’ll take some patience while Barzal learns the nuances of a new position, but the position shift has the potential for a lot of positive impact for the team.
Con: Will the Islanders be getting last year’s version of Kadri?
It’s a fair question to ask if Kadri’s 2021-22 season numbers can be repeated. He was a playing on a contract year with the most talented offense in the league. When compared to the rest of his NHL career, his 86 point season last year was a significant anomaly. Traditionally, he’s a player who’s averaged around 40-55 points. In addition to that, he’s only scored over 20 goals in two other seasons before last season’s 28 goal performance (2016-17 & 2017-18).
In short, his standard career numbers are not much more exceptional than any other player on the Islanders roster. This is not to say that Kadri’s presence wouldn’t be a welcome addition even if he regresses back to his standard numbers. But the Islanders are going in on this signing fully believing that Kadri can score 20+ and get around 60-70 total points. If Kadri can’t provide that, then this signing will be a lot less than ideal for the short and long term future.
Con: The terms of Kadri’s contract
Last year’s career season has Kadri set to make some major money on his next contract. Most expect it to be seven years and in the range of $7-9 million AAV. For any team, not just the Islanders, that’s not the most appealing long term contract. Considering Kadri’s entering the contract in the same year he turns 32, the back half of that hypothetical deal screams buyout.
Where this becomes problematic for the Islanders specifically is when that contract combines with ones they’ve already given out. By 2025-26, the Islanders will already have $14.5 million tied up between Anders Lee, J.G. Pageau and Casey Cizikas. And at that time, all three of those players will be in their mid-30’s and probably won’t be the same players that they are today. Adding Kadri to that mix is a recipe for disaster for the Islanders a few years down the road. They’ll be drowned in future debt and have a difficult time getting themselves out of limbo.
Pro: Kadri is the Islanders best shot at an established scorer
Not everything about signing Kadri is perfect, but he’s the best option the Islanders have right now. They need a proven scorer in the worst way, so it’s worth the gamble to bring in Kadri. Even if he takes the likely step down from last year’s performance, he’ll still be a top option on this team. His consistent ability to hit the high 40’s and 50’s in points will be a big help in filling the void left by Eberle’s departure.
Not to mention that Kadri has been a force on the power play throughout his career, especially last year with his 29 power play points. That alone is a significant upgrade the Islanders have needed for a long time on the man advantage. All in all, Kadri is proven performer and a proven winner. He plays with a lot of passion and had a big role for the Avalanche in their Stanley Cup run. The Islanders will greatly benefit from having such a hard working, talented player like Kadri on the roster while they try to redeem themselves from a failed 2021-22 season.
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images
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