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Projecting Nazem Kadri's Next NHL Contract

On pace to smash his career-high in points just halfway through the 2021-22 season, what will Nazem Kadri's next contract look like?
Nazem Kadri

Nazem Kadri is about to make a lot of money. 

Like, so much. 

Scoring at a 120-point pace in your contract year will do that for you. In fact, if Kadri continues to roll at his current pace, his performance this season might just go down as the best contract year in NHL history, with the 31-year-old already a mere one point away from smashing his career-high of 61 in just 41 games thus far. 

As I said, those numbers are going to earn him so serious cash. 

But how much, exactly? Well, that's the possibly eight-figure question. 

There are two main hiccups when it comes to signing Kadri long-term: Age, and track record. 

Kadri may be challenging for the Art Ross at the moment -- which, as an aside, is just an insane sentence to write -- but he's also inching toward the back-end of his prime with each passing day, and is set to celebrate his 32nd birthday before the puck drops on the 2022-23 season. 

Handing Kadri a seven-year deal this summer, which he will likely ask for on the open market, ties him to a team's cap until he's nearly 40. Is that a commitment GMs are willing to make? 

I wouldn't. And not solely because of his age. 

There's also the fact that Kadri has never done something like this before. Ever. No one has, in fact. 

While all metrics seem to suggest that Kadri's torrid pace is purely the product of him simply playing some darn good hockey and not unsustainable shooting luck, this is still a completely unforeseen performance that came out of nowhere in the veteran's 13th NHL season. 

Is Kadri's 2021-22 an aberration? Or is it realistic to expect him to match this output for the next few years after scoring, at best, half as many points annually for the 12 years prior? 

I'm going to be honest with you, folks. I don't know!  

No player in the salary cap era has seen his production skyrocket in a contract year quite like this, especially not after turning 30, leaving few applicable comparables from which gauge his value. 

But we can sure try. 

Nicklas Backstrom, for example, re-signed with the Washington Capitals in 2020 for a $9.25 million AAV at the age of 32, coming off a season in which he scored at a pace of 0.89 points-per-game. Kadri is clearly rocking at a better clip than that this year, and could therefore ask for a similar dollar figure based on that alone. But Backstrom's track record of being a point-per-game player for the entirety of his 14-year career gave him a bargaining chip that Kadri, whose career 0.68-pace even when factoring in his current spike, does not. And, not to mention, the Capitals only gave Backstrom a five-year deal, too.  

Is Kadri in a position to ask for more? It's hard to say. 

The comparable deals after Backstrom's don't exactly help his cause either, reading more like a list of cautionary tales than effective negotiating tools. In fact, there's only really one deal left that has some applicability to Kadri's situation, and it's not a great one. 

Ryan Kesler signed an extension with the Anaheim Ducks in 2015 at the age of 31 for a $6.75 million AAV after scoring at a 0.67 pace that year, which actually gives us a decent starting given that it's almost identical to Kadri's career clip. 

Now, Kadri doesn't have the same miles on his body that Kesler did when he signed his deal, so injuries aren't as much of a concern. But it still doesn't erase how Kesler barely made it through half of the six years the Ducks gave him before his body more or less gave out, with his production reaching new annual depths all the way until retirement. 

Kadri could argue that he's been more durable than Kesler and is on pace for double what the former Canuck put up in his contract year. And a GM could turn around and argue that Kadri is the same age as Kesler was when he signed, has scored at roughly the same pace every year but this one, and doesn't have the Selke Award or playoff experience that Kesler used to earn that paycheck.

Neither side would be wrong, either. 

So, we're back to square one. 

Kadri is in a completely unique situation when it comes to age and production, with few accurate contract comparables available that, even in the most applicable cases, feature caveats that throw off their value almost completely. 

It's a good thing Kadri hired notorious ball-buster Darren Ferris to handle negotiations, then. Because I do not envy the GM that has to decide whether the 2021 version of Kadri is the one he's paying, or if he's about to hand out first-line money to a second-line player. 

Good luck, NHL! 

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