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NHL Free Agency: Best Landing Spots for Nazem Kadri

Where will Nazem Kadri sign? Let's take a look at the best landing spots for the star center.

The calendar continues to creep into August, and the top free agent on the market remains unsigned. 

Who will Nazem Kadri sign with? 

That question has been debated for the better half a year now, with the answer still just as unclear as before the market opened. And as teams continue to lock in their rosters, Kadri's potential landing spots only keep getting whittled down into a select few, with reports indicating that the star center only has eyes for a contender. 

Who could that be? Let's take a look at the most likely landing spots for Kadri and weigh the pros and cons of him signing on the dotted line. 

Colorado Avalanche 
Cap Space: $3,910,000

It's remarkable what a Stanley Cup can do for employee morale.

The entire hockey world (myself included) seems to have a sneaking suspicion that Kadri is destined for a reunion in Denver. The top player on the market rarely ever takes this long to make a decision, and when he does, it typically means there are some back alley dealings afoot -- this case being Joe Sakic & Co. desperately trying to clear enough cap space to pay Kadri close to market-value rate. 

How will they make that work? I have no idea. Truly. It seems impossible. But this team usually finds a way. 

Right now, the Avs have precisely $3.91 million in wiggle room after re-signing nearly every member of their Cup-winning roster and oddly giving Alexandar Georgiev a $3.4 million AAV. 

That $3.91 million could turn into $9.91 million if they find a way to dump Erik Johnson's cap hit without retaining any salary. It is a massively daunting task but would, if completed, give them enough to pay Kadri and have some funds left over. 

Problem solved, right? Nope! 

See, even if the Avalanche were able to dump Johnson's money outright -- which would need to include a massive sweetener in order to convince another team to absorb that much salary -- there's also the fact that Nathan MacKinnon is set to hit the open market in a year and will require a new deal of his own equivalent to the GDP of a small country.  

Is re-signing Kadri now worth losing MacKinnon in a year? I'm going to go with no. But if anyone can find a way to make all this fit under the salary cap, it's the Avalanche. 

I do not envy their capologist. 

New York Islanders 
Cap Space: $11,185,037

Oh, boy! Another free agent for the Islanders to strike out on! 

On paper, the Isles seem great. Sitting with the most cap space of any prospective Kadri landing spot at the moment, the Islanders enter the fray with a financial leg up on their competition, a brand new arena, and a New York sports market offering athletes equal opportunity for fame and privacy. 

But something's not right on the Island lately. And it seems to be scaring talent off. 

First off, the Islanders just fired the coach that led them to back-to-back Eastern Conference Final trips in his first two years on the job, quizzically handing Barry Trotz his walking papers after a 13-game season-opening road trip and a COVID-ravaged roster tanked the club's 2021-22 campaign. 

Why would they do that? Beats me! But Trotz was something of an ace-in-the-hole for the Islanders during his time behind the bench, always managing to squeeze the best out of rosters that looked comparatively weak on paper. 

Will this Isles squad reach those heights without Trotz guiding them? That remains to be seen. 

Not to mention, GM Lou Lamoriello has struggled to attract and retain high-end talent in recent years, watching captain John Tavares departing for Toronto in 2019, signing no major free agents that weren't first acquired via trade, and, most recently, sitting back as Johnny Gaudreau chose Columbus over Long Island in free agency. 

And that's not even including Lou's decision to deal Norris candidate Devon Toews away for a pair of second-round picks -- which almost certainly set the club back a few years in the process.

The perks seem tantalizing at first. But does Kadri want to strap himself to a club that seems to be heading in the wrong direction, and also must endure the litany of rules enforced under Lamoriello's watch? 

It just seems like a headache that he could avoid elsewhere while sacrificing very little money. But the Isles do have a hole at center and a wad of cash with Kadri's name on it. 

Decisions, decisions. 

Seattle Kraken 
Cap Space: $2,210,834

Ok, hear me out. 

The Kraken botched the expansion draft last summer. Like, really, really badly. But the organization's apathetic rookie debut in 2021-22 has been salvaged somewhat by a terrific sophomore-year offseason thus far, with the Kraken nabbing the likes of veterans Andre Burakovsky, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Justin Schultz to supplement a young core headlined by two future superstars in Shane Wright and Matty Beniers. 

With money to burn, a state-of-the-art new arena, and nowhere to go but up in the standings, Seattle has begun to materialize as a legitimate free-agent destination. 

Perhaps one even capable of woo-ing Kadri. 

They'd have to move some money around to make it work, of course. 

With just over $2 million in cap space at the moment, the Kraken are pretty strapped for wiggle room. But their roster is loaded with depth luxuries from the expansion draft that could seemingly be sold off to clear space, with the likes of Joonas Donskoi's $3.9 million, Jamie Oleksiak's $4.6 million, or Carson Soucy's $2.75 million being movable assets that won't gut the roster. Jettisoning any combination of those three could bump Seattle's cap space into the $8-9 million range, which, seemingly, would be enough to grab Kadri's attention. 

Kadri wouldn't just be any signing, either. He'd be the Kraken's first true star, a Cup-winner with skill and flair whom hockey's newest fanbase could glob onto from Day One. 

It's not likely. But it is possible, and would instantly make the Kraken one of the more interesting teams in the league.  

Detroit Red Wings
Cap Space: $10,296,111

Detroit's rebuild is over. You don't sign Ville Husso, Andrew Copp, David Perron, Ben Chiarot, Olli Maata, and Mark Pysyk all in the same offseason if you're looking to lose. 

These Red Wings mean business once again, boasting a decent young core that is now supported by useful veterans while currently sitting with over $10 million in cap space even after their summer signing spree. 

A top-nine headlined down the middle by Kadri, Larkin, and Copp looks pretty good to me. All that's left is to reel their big fish in. 

Detroit seems to offer everything Kadri could be looking for in a landing spot with whom he'd be spending the remaining years of his prime. 

With Steve Yzerman leading the way up top, the Red Wings have solid and entrenched leadership in the front office, a robust player development department on the ice, and the financial resources to remain a serious player in free agency for years to come. 

Sure, the icy chill of Michigan winters might scare off other prospective free agents. But Kadri has spent his entire career to date in Toronto and Denver; the two locales aren't exactly known for their balmy temperatures. 

Has the Red Wings' offseason been perfect? Heck, no. Handing Chiarot nearly $5 million over four years is the type of deal I thought Yzerman was smart enough to avoid. But when it comes to organizational prestige, odds of contention, and financial flexibility, no other logical destination seems to come close. 



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